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Most countries throughout the world periodically conduct a population census. According to the Constitution of the United States of America, every ten years the government conducts a population census. In the past, thousands of census-takers have attempted to visit every household in the nation, especially those in poorer neighborhoods, to record the number of persons living there, their ages, and other statistical information.
The United States Government census for the year 2000 has already been making headlines, as the Administration, together with the Census Bureau, battle the House of Representatives concerning politically and racially charged aspects of the census. While the Administration supports statistical sampling and statistical adjustments to correct an acknowledged undercount of millions of people (some four million in 1990), the House believes that such adjustments are unconstitutional in light of the Constitution's statement that there must be an "actual enumeration" of the population.
Whatever the Supreme Court decides after hearing the case on November 30, most of the information garnered for the upcoming census will primarily be conducted in the age-old manner of mailing questionnaires to every household in the United States and then sending census-takers door to door to try and make sure no one is left out.
Who are the census-takers? It can be just about anyone. In the past, it has included high school and college students, unemployed individuals or people with part-time jobs, and seasonal workers. Basi-cally, census-takers are people with time on their hands who can use the extra money and aren't looking for highly-skilled work. The counting itself can, and is, done by virtually anyone.
The Jewish people were counted three times during their 40 year sojourn in the Sinai desert. On three separate occasions, G-d commanded Moses that a census should be taken.
But G-d did not merely tell Moses to organize a census. He commanded Moses to conduct the actual count. The same Moses whose received and transmitted the Divine truths of the Torah to the Jewish people and to all humanity went from tent to tent to count the Jewish people. Moses, who sat every day, all day, from morning to evening, conducting the affairs of the nation and serving as their chief jurist and judge; Moses, the greatest teacher and prophet of all time, was instructed to personally visit every "household" in the Israelite camp to tally how many individuals between the ages of 20 and 60 resided there.
Of course, no single individual could visit hundreds of thousands of homes. Moses needed helpers. And who was appointed to assist him? Aaron, second in stature only to Moses. (The final census took place after Aaron's passing; his son and successor, Elazar, assisted Moses.) When additional help was needed, the leaders, the princes of the twelve tribes of the Jewish people, were enlisted.
Counting numbers may be a relatively simple task. But when it is people who are being counted-when each number represents a unique and holy soul-it is a task that must be conducted with sensitivity and reverence.
Jewish teachings explain that every Jew contains within him or her a spark of Moses. Surely, then, each of us can act with sensitivity and reverence toward our fellow Jews and count them in.
Based, in part, on an essay from The Week in Review published by V.H.H.
This week's Torah reading, Noach, opens with the words, "These are the generations of Noach [Noah]; Noach was a righteous man." Surprisingly, instead of enumerating Noach's children, Shem, Cham and Yefet, the Torah informs us that he was a tzadik, a righteous individual.
Rashi explains that the literal "generations" of Noach were his descendents, as the Torah actually tells us a few verses later. But "as soon as the Torah mentions him we are told of his praise." Whenever a tzadik's name is mentioned it is appropriate to say "blessed be the memory of the righteous."
Rashi offers us another explanation as well: The phrase "Noach was a righteous man" teaches us that the true "descendents" of the righteous are their good deeds. Thus the principal legacy of Noach was not his children, but the good deeds he performed throughout his life.
In truth, Rashi's explanation contains a practical directive for every Jew to apply in his daily life. The phrase "the generations of Noach" serves to instruct Jewish children in the proper way to behave, and provides Jewish parents with a worthy example and paradigm to emulate when educating their children.
From Rashi's first explanation we learn that whenever we speak about a righteous person we should elucidate his fine qualities, describing his exemplary conduct in the service of G-d. In this way, all who hear about the righteous person will be inspired to emulate his or her behavior. Noach, we are told, was "tamim - perfect" in his generation. His behavior was considered perfect precisely because it was consistent throughout the day, not just during prayer or while studying. Indeed, it was obvious that Noach was a tzadik even when he was engaged in more mundane matters, such as eating.
From Rashi's second explanation we learn that children must act in a manner in which they, their parents' "generations," are transformed into "good deeds"; they become synonymous with the good deeds they perform. At the same time, the parents' role is to teach their children to distinguish themselves by their actions; in truth, the only true nachas parents receive from their children consists of the good deeds they perform.
Accordingly, children must always strive to live up to their parents' expectations, and the entire family should enedeavor to conduct itself according to the dictates of our holy Torah.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 10
by Brian J. Grossman
From The Jewish News, Richmond, Virginia
When our grandparents came to America from Europe, they brought with them the traditions and practices developed over centuries of living in isolation from non-Jews in segregated societies. They were Jews from Europe but not of Europe. As they strove to survive and adapt in the New World, they found that they were now, for the most part, safe from physically violent attacks by anti-Semites, but in large measure still socially segregated in an overwhelmingly Christian society. This became the experience of our parents' generation.
Many of our parents chose to meet the challenge of their generation by abandoning some of those traditions which made integration into American society awkward. Our parents' generation was confronted with other issues of immediate need which made observance of Shabbat and kashrut and study of Torah and Talmud seem less relevant. The Soviet Union threatened to wipe out the last remnants of Eastern European Jewry through enforced atheism and totalitarianism prohibitions. The Arab world was united in its tenacious and unyielding pursuit of the destruction of Israel.
Our parents' examples of energized community activism and dedication to the survival of our people inspired us.
We are challenged to find for ourselves the meaning of continued Jewish existence in a society which is friendlier toward Jews than any other throughout history, outside of Israel. It is with this question in mind that I began to attend the bi-weekly "Lunch 'n Learn" Torah study sessions taught by Rabbi Yossel Kranz, director of Lubavitch of the Virginias, in Richmond.
Although I was both Bar Mitzva and confirmed at a local Richmond temple, I never had any real introduction to the Jewish intellectual tradition. My Jewish education consisted mostly of learning Hebrew, studying Jewish history, and memorizing prayers for my Bar Mitzva. The intellectual component of Torah study was left out.
As I got older, I found myself left with an unsatisfied curiosity. I knew that our people had developed a rich intellectual history of scholarship spanning thousands of years, but I hadn't the slightest idea what it was about.
The answers lie within our tradition. To find the answers one must study Torah. This is the tradition which our grandparents brought from Europe and which became lost during our recent preoccupation with combating Soviet and Arab aggression.
The notion, however, of "Torah Study" seemed to me incredibly alien. I asked myself why. The answer, I discovered, was due to having been raised in a very Jewish, yet very un-religious, atmosphere.
It is said that every Jew needs two synagogues, one he goes to and the other he would never set foot in. Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I was taught that the secular demands of the Jewish people for survival in Europe and Israel were more important than merely following old traditions. Good Jews gave to the UJA and lobbied Congress to support Israel and Soviet Jewry. According to this way of thinking, praying and keeping kosher didn't help Jews in the USSR and were therefore of secondary importance, if any.
Ironically, according to the above theory, those Jews who were the most observant of Jewish laws and traditions, the "Orthodox,"did the least to help the community. To make matters worse, I was certain that they viewed the rest of us with disdain because we did not observe as they did. This misconception made me resent the Orthodox bitterly and I unwittingly let that resentment spread to anything even remotely associated with Orthodox observance. The formula went something like this: The Orthodox study Torah obsessively. The ultra-Orthodox are not good Jews. Therefore, good Jews do not study Torah. This, I believe, is the silent reasoning which prevents many non-observant Jews from even considering Torah study.
The view of the Orthodox as a hostile subculture within Jewish society is one shared by many non-religious Jews. It is true that there are Orthodox Jews who look upon the unobservant with disdain. I, however, have engaged in the study of Torah in Richmond without encountering a single such individual.
Our community is blessed with the presence of a vibrant Lubavitch center. One of the principal differences between the Lubavitch Chasidim and other organized groups of observant Jews is their attitude toward those less observant than themselves. They welcome any Jew who is curious about our traditions.
My experience at the bi-weekly Lunch 'n Learn seminars has taught me new respect for Jewish culture and thought. I have but glimpsed the scope of depth and breadth of the Jewish intellectual traditional and am awed by what I have seen. If you have never had any exposure to this part of the Jewish experience, then please consider joining a class at your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
THE YARMULKE BOOK
The Yarmulke, Kippah, Coppel Book is a whimsical picture book. The child in this delightful book is always proud to wear a head covering wherever he travels to remind him that Someone is above. The word "yarmulke," "kippah" or "coppel" is indicated in the text by a colorful drawing so that the reader can fill in the most comfortable word. Published by HaChai Publishing.
A collection of Chasidic stories culled from writings of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Chasidic Portraits is a gallery of sketches that portray Chasidim of yesteryear. The stories reveal the essence and the teachings which fashioned their very existence. Masterfully portrayed, these stories offer a glimpse of Chasidim whose lives were permeated with sincerity, vitality and remarkable devotion to G-d. Translated by Elchonon Lesches and published by Otsar Sifrei Lubavitch, Inc.
16th of Teveth, 5715 
This is in reply to your letter of January 5, in which you ask my advice concerning the friction that arose with regard to the marriage celebration, planned in March.
Let me at once rectify your error in evaluating the situation, which I ascribe to the fact that you are personally involved right in the midst of it, for it is difficult under such circumstances to evaluate a situation more calmly and objectively, as the person who views it from a distance.
The error consists in overlooking the fact that the marriage ushers in a new life for the young couple and lays the foundations for the happiness of the entire future life, while the external aspects of the celebration connected with the hall, band, or dancing and the like, are matters of a few hours duration and of no lasting consequence, thus entirely disproportionate to the real important things which are fundamental.
Needless to say, the most insignificant thing can be blown up to assume tremendous proportions, as people sometimes make a mountain out of a molehill, with the result that it causes anxiety and heartache as if the thing was really significant. But the fact is that what appears to you as a problem of great consequence is in reality nothing that can have any bearing on the future if approached correctly.
As to the question, who is right and who has to give in, I trust that you can answer it yourself even on a little reflection. Consider the issues: on the one hand you have the local convention to make the wedding festivities in a certain way, of which your family is in favor. If your Chosson [groom] will not conform, and will try to explain why, the explanation may not be accepted, and your family will feel hurt, for a time at any rate.
On the other hand, he believes that if he did conform, he will offend the Almighty going against His will. In addition to the fact that one is always dependent upon G-d's grace, this is something which is of fundamental importance, connected with the very foundations of the entire future.
Even if there were only a remote chance of doubt as to its possible effects, it would be prudent to avoid it.
Suppose a businessman is offered a transaction which has two possibilities: either to earn a penny, or to lose a million dollars. What a reasonable businessman would do in such a case is obvious. Yet here it is only a question of money, where the differences between a penny and a million can be measured. In your case it is not a question of relative proportion, for the issues are: following an external convention, and thereby jeopardizing the spiritual and material happiness of two young lives who are about to join their lives and fate and build a home together. The choice should not be difficult to make.
Whatever justification there may be for your chagrin at not having been told about it earlier, the set up of your problem does not change thereby, inasmuch as your Chosson is not motivated by a personal whim, but something which he considers of fundamental importance, as many tens of thousands of other religious Jews do.
...If it were a valid argument to do what others do, or even what the majority does, Jews who are, and always have been, in the minority would have long ago disappeared from the face of the earth, and even within our people, too, those strictly adhering to our Torah and Mitzvos, kashrus, etc., are unfortunately in the minority in recent times.
Let me conclude by reiterating what I told you when you were here. The preparations for the wedding and the wedding itself-this is the foundation of your future home among our people. As in any structure, the most important thing is the foundation, for all effort and money poured into a building, into the walls, decorations, interior and exterior, furniture, etc. would be to no avail unless the foundations are strong and lasting, and no chances, however remote, should be permitted to jeopardize the whole structure, especially as it can be so easily avoided.
I trust that you will find the suitable words to explain to your mother the true aspects of the situation, and that from now on there will be no more friction among all concerned, and that you will have only good news to write about.
With prayerful wishes that the wedding take place in a happy and auspicious hour, for a happy future materially and spiritually.
4 Marcheshvan 5759
Positive mitzva 101: The "leper"
By this injunction (contained in Lev: 12:2-5) we are commanded concerning the uncleanliness of a person with tzara'at, an illness that is similar to but not synonymous with modern-day leprosy. This commandment includes all the regulations on tzara'at: which cases are clean and which are unclean, which need segregation and which do not, which require shaving as well as segregation, and all other details pertaining to the nature of the uncleanliness.
The holiday-filled month of Tishrei is behind us, and we now find ourselves in the Hebrew month of Marcheshvan. The name is derived from the word "mar," meaning "drop," as it is in Marcheshvan that the rainy season begins (in the Land of Israel).
In general, winter is the time for rain, while summer is the time for dew. Rain and dew are physically both water, but like everything else in the material world, these phenomena contain an important spiritual lesson for us to learn.
The Torah teaches that rain is dependent on the quality of our service of G-d. G-d causes the rain to fall in the merit of our prayers. If we don't behave as we should, G-d punishes us by withholding His life-giving waters. Dew, by contrast, falls "by itself" - independent of our actions. G-d causes the dew to regularly replenish the earth without any effort on our part.
The physical manifestations of rain and dew also express a basic distinction between summer and winter. In the summer, the world receives G-d's blessings without much exertion. In the winter, it is much more difficult to obtain His blessings, and we have to work hard for them. In fact, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe once stated that "The service of G-d is easier in summer than in winter."
But don't worry, G-d makes sure that we have the necessary strength for the coming frigid months. Tishrei, the "chodesh hashevi'i" ("seventh month" when counting from Nisan) is described as "musba" ("satiated and full"), from the same root word as "sheva" ("seven"). Luckily (but of course, there is no such thing as chance in Divine plan), the month of Tishrei is so chock-full of mitzvot and everything good that it gives us the ability to perform our G-dly service throughout the entire winter.
So don't hesitate to jump in and "get your feet wet." Because rain or shine, it's always the right weather for doing a mitzva.
Noach was a perfect, righteous man in his generations (Gen. 6:9)
The Torah uses the plural "generations" because Noach's lifetime actually spanned two of them: the generation of the Flood, and the generation that replenished the earth afterward. Compared to the immoral people who lived before the Flood, Noach was righteous in deed. Compared to those who built the Tower of Bavel and who were intellectually dishonest, he was perfect and without blemish. (Beit Yosef, quoted by Magid Meisharim)
Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood (Gen. 6:14)
If the purpose of the ark was "to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth"-to make sure that each animal species continued to propagate-why did G-d instruct Noach to make it "for himself"? Because man's place in the universe is unique and crucial to all of creation. If he conducts himself according to G-d's will, he raises up and elevates the entire world; if not, he drags down the entire planet with him. (Sefer HaMaamarim 5699)
And only Noach was left (Gen. 7:23)
In previous verses Noach is referred to as "perfect" or "righteous," yet after the Flood he is simply "Noach," the name he was given at birth. For it was only in relation to the wicked people around him that he was deserving of such complimentary titles and descriptions. (Ketav Sofer)
And Noach...planted a vineyard...and drank of the wine and became drunken (Gen. 9:20-21)
Why does the Torah relate such an unsavory story about Noach? Because despite his relative greatness, Noach's character and true nature was coarse and pleasure-seeking. For this reason, the people of Noach's generation didn't consider him any better than they were. By contrast, the conduct of Abraham both privately and publicly was that of a holy man, prompting everyone who saw him to declare, "You are a prince of G-d in our midst." (Tal Shechakim)
Once there was a chasid was rented an inn from the local poretz (the all-powerful, feudal landowner) and, as so often happened, he fell on hard times and was unable to pay his rent. The poretz was infuriated and threatened the chasid with imprisonment for him and his entire family, even his young children.
With no help in sight, and not knowing where to turn, the chasid traveled to his Rebbe to beg the tzadik to intercede for him. When he arrived in the town, he went directly to the house of the Rebbe, but to his dismay the Rebbe was out of town. The chasid poured out his heart to the Rebbe's wife, details of his plight tumbling from his trembling lips.
She listened and opened her heart to the poor man. "Why don't you go to the shul and tell my grandson about your troubles. It just may be that he can help you."
The chasid didn't know what to say. The grandson of the Rebbe was just a young child of only ten, and he gingerly voiced his apprehension to the Rebbetzin. "With all respect, Rebbetzin, he is a mere lad. I need the Rebbe's help, for this is a matter of life and death."
The Rebbe's wife was adamant, and answered simply, "The Rebbe is not here now. Take my advice and go and talk to my grandson."
With no other choice, the chasid walked to the synagogue, where he found the boy deeply involved in study. Waiting until the child sensed his presence, the man began to speak, introducing himself and explaining that his grandmother had suggested that he talk to him. He felt a bit foolish discussing such heavy burdens with a young child, but the boy listened with the intensity of an adult.
When the man had finally finished his terrible story, the boy sighed from the depths of his soul. "If only Grandfather were here now. He would certainly be able to help you. But I, what can I do for you?"
The chasid hadn't expected this reaction and with blazing eyes he replied with anger and frustration, "Your grandmother sent me to you and told me that you would help me! If there is nothing you can do, then so be it. But, if you can help me and you refuse to do it, I will never forgive you in this world or the next!"
The boy was shocked at these words. He slowly and deliberately closed the book he was studying and said, "Now, we must go to the mikva."
The two chasidim, the boy and the adult, walked to the mikva, and there, the boy immersed himself in the cold water. The seconds ticked slowly, but the chasid became aware that too much time had gone by and the child had not emerged from beneath the water. The chasid was suddenly seized with a terror worse than the deepest fear he had ever experienced in his life. He moved toward the mikva, thinking he would dive into the water, but his limbs were paralyzed by intense fear. In a split second, the chasid forgot all his troubles-his rent, his debt, his fear of imprisonment-and all his thoughts focused on his one ardent desire: that the child emerge alive from the mikva.
When he finally did emerge, the boy said only, "Go home in peace. Everything will be well."
When the chasid returned to his home, the poretz sent for him and miraculously apologized for the way he had treated him. He related an incident which had occurred to him the preceding night. He was asleep in his bed, when suddenly he experienced the most distressing sensation that he was choking and couldn't catch his breath. Upon awaking, he began to reflect on what had happened. Could it be that he was being punished for the cruel punishments he inflicted on his tenants? That night he resolved to change his ways and take a more lenient position toward their financial lapses.
"My friend," he addressed the incredulous chasid, "I am going to lower your yearly rent. Not only that, but I will give you a head start by forgiving your current debt, so you can start with a clean slate!"
The chasid couldn't believe his ears. His salvation had been granted.
When the Rebbe returned home, the chasid appeared before him to relate the turn of events. When the Rebbe heard the whole story, particularly the role his young grandson played, he shook his head and said, "This is too tender an age for my grandson to endanger his life." This young boy eventually became Rebbe. For the rest of his life, he devoted himself entirely to the needs of his fellow Jews.
Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch would say: "Many people await the coming of Moshiach and the 'better days' it will bring. In truth, however, these are the best days there are. What Moshiach will do is reveal the hidden goodness of our present-day existence." (Sefer HaSichot of the Previous Rebbe, 5704)