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1316: Metzora

1317: Achrei Mos

L'Chaim
April 11, 2014 - 11 Nisan, 5774

1317: Achrei Mos

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  1316: Metzora 

Some Things Never Change  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Today Is ...  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Some Things Never Change

Some things never change. Like matza! Year after year, matza always tastes the same. You'll never see a matza box flashing the words "new and improved" or "all new recipe." Flour and water can't taste much different than flour and water.

Change is taking place in the world around us so quickly that it's reassuring to know that there are things in our lives and in the world that are stable. They were the same yesterday as they are today and the same as they'll be tomorrow.

This consistency can be found in the Rebbe's assertion that ours is the last generation of exile and the first generation that will experience the long-awaited redemption for all humankind.

Long before the Rebbe accepted the leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement over 60 years ago his thoughts were already absorbed with the idea of Moshiach and the Redemption.

In 1956, in a letter to then president of Israel Yitzchak ben Tzvi, the Rebbe wrote: "From the day I went to cheder [primary school] and even before, the picture of the final Redemption started forming in my mind - the Redemption of the Jews from their last exile, a Redemption in such a way that through it will be understood the sufferings of exile, the decrees and the destruction ... And all will be in a way that with a complete heart and full understanding it will be said on that day, 'Thank you G-d for chastising me.' "

The thread joining all of the Rebbe's public addresses is the drive to do another mitzva, to study another Torah concept, to hope and pray with a little more feeling in order to hasten the Redemption.

This effort intensified when the Rebbe, with his prophetic vision, and quoting an ancient Jewish text, declared that "the time for the Redemption has arrived," a time of peace, prosperity, harmony and knowledge, a perfect world.

Day after day the Rebbe said that we are poised on the threshold of the Redemption. The Rebbe pointed to events taking place around the world, as well as technological advances, as indications of, or precursors to, the Messianic Era.

The Rebbe encouraged everyone: "Open your eyes" to the reality of the Redemption. Make the Redemption your reality.

As we celebrate the Rebbe's 113th birthday this Friday, 11 Nissan/April 11, and a few days later the brithday of the Jewish people on Passover, let's strive to experience true liberty, to really open our eyes to the reality of the good and G-dly in everyone and everything around us. This new vision, together with an additional mitzva, will surely bring the ultimate change to the entire world, the change from exile to Redemption, with the revelation of Moshiach, NOW!


Living with the Rebbe

This coming week we will begin celebrating Passover, commemorating our redemption from Egypt. The Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt by Moses, about whom our Sages said, "Moses was designated for redemption from the moment he was created." Yet Moses' role as redeemer is not limited to the exodus from Egypt; our Sages tell us he will also bring the final Redemption with Moshiach: "Moses was the first and will be the last redeemer."

The Torah expresses Moses' uniqueness with the words "Moses, a man of G-d." The Talmud finds this description problematic. "If he is 'G-d,' why use the word 'man'? And if he is 'man,' why use the word 'G-d'?" it asks. The Talmud then goes on to answer its own question. "His lower half was 'man,' yet his upper half was G-d." In other words, Moses was a unique combination of the human and the Divine.

Accordingly, the task of Moses was to forge a connection between G-d and man, between the supernatural and the physical worlds. G-d's revelation of Himself through supernatural miracles is not enough; the ultimate goal of creation is to introduce holiness into the physical realm, where it can unite with nature and be one with it.

When the revelation of G-dliness supersedes nature, there is no true connection formed between the Divine and physical reality.Although the world may be temporarily shaken by the display of G-d's infinite power, as soon as the miracle has ended, everything reverts to its former condition. When, however, G-d reveals Himself within the limitations of natural law, nature itself is shown to be G-dly.

This connection between natural and supernatural can only be effected by a Moses who serves as intermediary between the two, as it states in the Torah, "I stand between you and G-d." His function is to connect the Jewish people to their Source and thus produce a true bond between them.

For this reason it was necessary that Moses embody both characteristics, the human and the Divine. On one hand he is a human being, on the other, he is higher than any other person. This dual nature enables him to successfully combine the physical and the spiritual, imbuing material reality with G-dliness according to G-d's plan.

This special quality will find its ultimate expression in Moshiach, the reason why Moses is credited with bringing the future Redemption. Moshiach's task is to complete the work begun by Moses, perfecting the unification of natural and supernatural that will characterize the Messianic era.

About the coming of Moshiach, the Torah states, "Like the days of your going out of Egypt, I will show you wonders." The miracles of the final Redemption will make the miracles that occurred in Egypt pale by comparison - demonstrating to the entire world that nature is also G-dly.

Adapted from Sefer HaSichot, 5751-1991


A Slice of Life

Holy Matza
by Tzvi Jacobs

It was April 1994. Six weeks earlier I had started my first job at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals.

Passover was coming soon. I had heard the Lubavitcher Rebbe speak many times about the importance of eating hand-made Shmura Matza on Passover and the special spiritual quality of Shmura Matza. The Rebbe also encouraged people to give this holy food to as many fellow Jews as possible to be used at the Passover Seder.

The Zohar calls matza "the bread of faith," and "the bread of healing." Based on these teachings, the Rebbe taught that eating Shmura Matza on Passover would have long-term positive affects on one's spiritual and even physical health.

How then could I withhold giving this holy matza to my fellow Jewish colleagues at Sandoz?

But, I must confess, it was a test for me on two fronts. First, there was the Jewish shy factor. Okay, I told myself, some people bake cakes and cookies for their holidays and give them out at work; so I bake matzas at the Matza Bakery in Crown Heights and I'll give them out at work.

Then, there was the money factor. I was married with four children, our youngest daughter having been born just six days earlier. Hand-made Shmura Matza was fetching $16 a pound!

In those days, Shmura Matza was a novelty, especially outside of Brooklyn. So if I didn't give Shmura Matza to my fellow Jewish colleagues, who would?

Still it was a test.

So a day before Passover, I packed matzas in pizza boxes (new ones, of course) and made my pizza delivery to the five Jews who I knew at work. If anyone stopped me I could say that I was delivering pizza. (Yes, it's cold, that's why it smells kind of flat.)

When I had one box left someone asked me, "Do you know Arthur? He's Jewish. Maybe he would like some?"

I had never met Arthur, but I had seen his name on his office door: "Arthur Schwartz, PhD."

The shy factor kicked in. I glanced into his office; luckily he wasn't there and I went back upstairs to my cubicle. But that one pizza box holding the holy hand-made Shmura Matza stared me in the face. At the end of the day, I got off the elevator on the fifth floor. Dr. Schwartz was sitting at his desk and I tapped on his door and introduced myself. "Call me Arthur," he said. "Please have a seat."

"Tomorrow night is Passover and ...," I said.

"Yes, I know, we - me, my wife and two children - are having a Seder at the Temple, just down the road in Florham Park."

"I have some handmade matza," I said while opening the lid, "and I was wondering...

I'll never forget that smile, the excitement in his eyes. Arthur looked as if he had just struck gold. "Shmura Matza! Someone used to give it to me every year when I worked in Manhattan. I started working here last year and we didn't have any for the Seder. I missed it so much last year."

That smile helped me lose the shy factor and made me realize how priceless the Shmura Matza really is. It kept me going the next year and the years after.

Fast-forward four years. I was now giving out Shmura Matza to about 20 Jewish coworkers at Sandoz, now named Novartis.

One of the women, already in her mid-thirties, had found a Jewish husband. A number of men were putting on tefilin. A co-worker, who had threatened me - "If you leave that L'Chaim on my desk I am calling HR!" - had even come to a class at my house (though he argued with the rabbi the whole time). The Shmura Matza was working.

Boy, was I pleased with myself; I had fulfilled the Rebbe's request and had given Shmura Matza to everyone at work whom I knew was Jewish.

I took off work on the eve of Passover and was busy helping my wife Esther get everything ready for our Seder. Sunset came and I finally sat down. "Oh my! Of all people," I moaned.

"What, what happened?" asked Esther.

"I forgot to give matza to Arthur. How did I?" I had let the pride of my accomplishments go to my head! Matza represents humility, the opposite of pride and ego. With every bite of matza that I took at the Passover Seder that night I thought of Arthur and his family not having Shmura Matza. I felt so bad. I resolved not to be so smug in the future.

The next day we ate the holiday meal at friends of ours. On the way home, our 8-year-old daughter Mariasha was pushing the stroller with her 2-year-old brother sitting inside. One part of the road was a little too steep for her to navigate the stroller properly and before we knew it the stroller had sped out of her hands. She ran after it but could not reach it. The stroller hit a bump in the sidewalk and slowed just enough for Mariasha to grab it. But then Mariasha tumbled over. By the time we got home, her shoulder was hurting. By late afternoon Mariasha was in severe pain. My wife called an ambulance and mother and daughter went to the hospital.

Being that we didn't know what time they would return, we regretfully started the Seder for the second night of Passover without my wife and Mariasha. About 30 minutes into the Seder, there was a knock at the door. Too early for Elijah, I thought to myself. When I opened the door, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was Arthur and his wife Betty.

"Betty was passing by this afternoon and saw an ambulance in front of your house. Is everything okay?" A few months earlier, the Schwartz's had moved from Florham Park to Morris Township, about a mile from our house. Arthur had wanted to be within walking distance of his synagogue.

Arthur and Betty joined us for the Seder. While eating the Shmura Matza, my wife Esther and Mariasha - with a sling over her shoulder - came through the door; Mariasha had chipped her collarbone. But the doctor said it would heal pretty fast. And so it did, thanks I'm sure to the holy Shmura Matza.

Tzvi Jacobs lives with his family in Monsey, New York and works as a medical writer at Purdue Pharmaceuticals. In his spare time, Tzvi writes stories. He is the author of a book of stories From the Heavens to the Heart.

What's New

Public Seders

Nearly 700 Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva students have travelled to destinations around the world where they will conduct public Passover Seders under the auspices of "Merkos Shlichus." They are in cities with small Jewish communities or tourist spots that do not have permanent emissaries. Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide will host public Seders. To find out about the Seder location closest to you call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or visit chabad.org.

Passover Times (New York Metro Area)

Nissan-April 14 light candles for 1st night of Passover at 7:16 p.m.

Nissan-April 15 light candles for 2nd night of Passover from a pre-existing flame after 8:18 p.m.

Nissan-April 16 first days of Yom Tov end at 8:19 p.m.

Nissan-April 18 Shabbat candle-lighting at 7:20 p.m.

Nissan-April 19 Shabbat ends at 8:22 p.m.

Nissan-April 20 light candles for 7th night of Passover at 7:22 p.m.

Nissan-April 21 light candles for last night from a pre-existing flame after 8:25 p.m.

Nissan-April 22 Passover ends at 8:26 p.m.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated and adapted

11th of Nissan, 5731 [1971]

...The relation of Passover to the month of Spring has a deep significance:

Passover brought about a complete change from abject slavery to complete freedom, from utter darkness to brilliant light. This is also the kind of change which takes place in nature in the spring, when the earth awakens from its winter slumber, and is released from the chains and restraints of the cold winter, to sprout and bloom until the stalks of grain begin to fill up.

Or, taking a detail: When from a seed after it had rotted away, there sprouts a new, living and growing crop. In both cases - Passover and spring - the change is not a gradual transition from one level to the next, but an extraordinary change, bearing no relation to the previous stage - a change that creates a new being.

One general instruction that may be derived from Passover, specifically from the connection of the Exodus from Egypt with the month of Spring, which is applicable to each and every Jew in his daily life, is the following: Human life, in general, is divided into two spheres: the personal life of the individual, and his accomplishments and contribution to the world. In both of these there is the spiritual life and the physical life.

The Jew's task is to "liberate" everything in the said spheres "from bondage to freedom," that is to say, to take all things out of their limitations and "elevate" them to spirituality (and more spirituality), until every detail of daily life is made into an instrument of service to G-d.

Even such things which apparently one cannot change - as, for example, the fact that G-d had created man in a way that he must depend on food and drink, etc., for survival - he nevertheless has the power to transform the physical necessity into a new and incomparably higher thing: One eats for the purpose of being able to do good, to learn Torah and fulfill mitzvoth (commandments), thus transforming the food into energy to serve G-d.

Moreover, in the very act of eating one serves G-d, for it gives the person an opportunity to make a blessing before and after eating, etc..

We find something akin to the above in regard to the month of Spring: At first glance, there is nothing man can do about it. After all, the laws of nature were established by G-d ever since He created heaven and earth...Nevertheless, a Jew observes and watches for the spring month in order to "make Passover to G-d your G-d."

In other words, in the phenomenon of spring he perceives and discerns G-d's immutable laws in nature. And more penetratingly: That it was in the month of spring - precisely when nature reveals its greatest powers - that "G-d brought you out of Egypt," in a most supernatural way.

In all spheres of one's daily life a person encounters conditions and situations that are "Egypt" [In Hebrew "Mitzrayim" which has the same root as the Hebrew word "meytzarim" - constraint and limitation] from the word meaning "Mitzrayim" - in the sense of restraints and hindrances - which tend to inhibit and restrain the Jew from developing in the fullest measure his true Jewish nature, as a Torah- Jew.

The hindrances and limitations are both internal - inborn traits and acquired habits; as well as external - the influences of the environment.

A Jew must free himself from these chains and direct his efforts towards serving G-d. If, on reflection, a person finds that spiritually he is still on a very low level, so that he can hardly be expected to make a complete change from slavery to freedom and from darkness to a great light - there is also in such a case a clear message in the festival of Passover. For, as has been noted, the Exodus was a change from one extreme to the other: From abject bondage to the most depraved idol worshippers, the Jews were not only liberated from both physical slavery (hard labor) and spiritual slavery (idolatry), but soon afterward - on the seventh day of Passover - they were able to declare, "This is my G-d," as if pointing a finger; subsequently, they reached Mount Sinai, heard G-d Himself proclaim, "I am G-d" and received the whole Torah, the Written as well as the Oral Torah - an extraordinary transformation from one extreme to the other.

May G-d help every Jew, man and woman, to make full use of the powers which the Creator has given each of them to overcome all difficulties and hindrances - to achieve a personal exodus from everything that is "mitzrayim," in order to attain true freedom, by attaching oneself to G-d through His Torah and His commandments...

Including the commandment of remembering Exodus by day and by night, and from individual redemption to the collective redemption of the Jewish people as a whole, to merit the fulfillment of the prophecy, "As in the days of your liberation from Egypt, I will show you wonders," at the coming of our righteous Moshiach, speedily indeed.


Today Is ...

12 Nissan

The Jews in Egypt were utterly degraded under their severe and bitter affliction. Yet, despite it all, they did not change their names, their language, or their distinctive clothing. With absolute determination they stood at their posts, for they knew that G-d had promised to redeem them. Whoever behaves as they did under such circumstances is a soldier in the Army of G-d, and the Al-mighty will come to his assistance in a manner that manifests itself in nature - yet transcends nature.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

It is an ancient Jewish custom to say daily the chapter of Psalms associated with the number of one's years. Chasidim and followers of the Rebbe also recite daily the Rebbe's chapter.

The 11th of Nissan (this year Friday, April 11) marks the Rebbe's 112th birthday, and so, we begin reciting chapter 113.

Chapters 113-118 of Psalms comprise Hallel, the special Psalms that we recite on Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Chanuka, Passover and Rosh Chodesh.

According to many opinions, Hallel was composed by the Jewish people at the splitting of the Red Sea. Our Sages state that Hallel was composed to be said at every great event and in every period of danger; we will also recite Hallel at the time of the Final Redemption.

This particular chapter alludes to some of the wondrous miracles that G-d performed at our redemption from Egypt.

The first verse reads: "Praise the L-rd. Offer praise, you servants of the L-rd; praise the Name of the L-rd." At first the Jews were servants of Pharoah. After their liberation from Egypt, they became servants of G-d. According to the Midrash, it was actually Pharoah who, in order to stop the plague of the first-born proclaimed that the Jews were free and told them that they are now servants of G-d and should praise Him.

In verse four we read: "The L-rd is high above all nations." Chasidic teachings explain the verse as follows: There are those among the nations who say: "Since the L-rd is so great, so high, His glory transcends the heavens - His glory can be found only in the heavens, whereas, for Him to rest in lower creations would be demeaning." In truth, however, He dwells on high (v. 5) - He transcends all equally, heaven as well as earth, and it is by His choice alone that He lowers Himself so low upon heaven and earth (v. 6) to dwell therein.

May we immediately see the culmination of our liberation from Egypt with the commencement of the eternal Redemption NOW!


Thoughts that Count

For on that day shall [the High Priest] make an atonement for you (Lev. 16:30)

The Jewish people are likened to a walnut. A walnut is edible even if it falls into dirt and filth. All one must do before eating it is wash it off, for the inside meat remains unsoiled. The same may be said of the Jewish people. No matter how sullied they become by their misdeeds a whole year, Yom Kippur comes and "washes" them off. A sin affects only the external part of the Jewish soul; the inner essence is always untouched and pristine.

(Midrash Rabba)


Blood shall it be considered to that man; blood has he shed (Lev. 17:4)

The purpose of the animal offerings was to accustom the individual to self-sacrifice. However, the Torah tells us, if the sacrifice was offered in the wrong place, "blood shall it be considered to that man." Sacrificing oneself on foreign altars, for the sake of foreign ideologies and ideals, is not only a waste of time, but a grievous sin.

(Eglai Tal)


Do not follow the ways of Egypt where you once lived, nor of Canaan, where I will be bringing you. Do not follow any of their customs. (Lev 18:3)

This verse is not exhorting us concerning transgressions; those are detailed later. Rather, it is informing us concerning the actions and deeds which are permitted; they must be performed in a different manner from the non-Jewish people in Egypt and Canaan. Even our eating and sleeping should be done in a Jewish way.

(Siftei Emet)


It Once Happened

Rabbi Yossi and Mariashi Groner have been emissaries of the Rebbe in North Carolina since 1980. Rabbi Groner relates: One of the programs we established in our early years in Charlotte was an after-school program for children. In 1985 we recognized the need for a preschool. The community preschool was full and we had had requests from parents to open one. We met with the administration of the existing Jewish preschool to speak with them about our desire to open a preschool. They voted not to stand in our way and actually encouraged us to open.

After running our preschool successfully for a number of years, parents began to ask us to open a Jewish day school, starting one grade at a time. A community day school did exist but it was not Orthodox. We wrote a letter to the Rebbe asking if we should open a day school. The Rebbe responded that we should not open our own day school because it would be divisive and that is not what Lubavitch is about.

One of the parents in our preschool who was Orthodox decided to write a letter to the Rebbe. In a rather forceful and aggressive way, he told the Rebbe that he really wanted us to start a day school and he couldn't understand why the Rebbe was not concerned with the Jewish welfare of the children in Charlotte. The Rebbe responded, "It will bring to division and war. This is not the matter of Lubavitch at all."

Two years later, the community day school closed. We took the opportunity to write to the Rebbe again, and explained that now that the school had closed we had the opportunity to start a day school. The Rebbe's response was that we should speak to the Rebbe's secretariat. We spoke to the Rebbe's chief secretary, Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Chadakov. Rabbi Chadakov told us, "The reason the Rebbe wanted you to speak with me is because the Rebbe wants you to know that the establishment of the school must be 'b'darkei noam ub'darkei shalom' - in a pleasant and peaceful manner."

With that instruction in mind, we established the Charlotte Jewish Day School. The school has been, thank G-d, quite successful. Our Jewish studies classes have always been very warm, educational, non-judgmental. Jewish children and families from all walks of life feel comfortable in our school. And everything is done according to halacha (Jewish law).

At a certain point a number of lay leaders - including a very influential philanthropist - put pressure on us that the school should be pluralistic and that all kinds of viewpoints should be taught in the school. We were called to a meeting with these people.

Mariashi and I discussed at length how we would put to rest the arguments of the lay leaders at the upcoming meeting. The night before our meeting, as we were discussing what our approach would be, I commented to my wife, "We always wrote to the Rebbe when we had issues with the community and the Rebbe would advise us how we should act and what we should say. And, now we don't have that option."

The next morning, at 6:30 a.m. when I arrived at our Chabad House for the morning minyan, I went into my office and saw that there was a long fax that had come at some point in the night. I looked at it hastily and saw that it was a copy of a letter from the Rebbe. After the morning prayers finished, I took the fax and began to read the letter. There were two letters. The first letter was to an educator in Israel who was coming under pressure to change the school. The letter said, "...: To the fundamental question about the school's administration, he is correct when he writes that above all, the main thing is the benefit to the students and success in their studies and their education....the hope is strong that finally even those who don't consider the benefit to students, for whatever reason, will see the truth..."

I took the letter home to my wife and we studied it together. It was clear from the Rebbe's letter that what is most important in education is to always have in mind what is best for the children. This must be the over-riding concern. We understood that at the meeting that day, our question about any proposed changes would be, "Is this for the benefit of the children?"

At the actual meeting, each time a change was proposed, we asked, "Is this for the benefit of the children? Does it have educational value? Or is it only for the benefit of a political viewpoint or agenda?" The proposed changes were not discussed again and we were never asked to attend a follow-up meeting.

We were still trying to figure out how did this letter come to us, out of the blue, with the precise answer we needed and the night before we needed it. To satisfy my curiosity, I called my father (Rabbi Leibel Groner, a member of the Rebbe's secretariat) and asked if he had faxed the letter to me. He assured me he had not.

I then called Rabbi Yaakov Chazan who worked in the Rebbe's library at the time. I had been in the middle of a family research project for someone in the community. This man was not Jewish but had ancestors who were Chasidim. I had been in touch with Rabbi Chazan, to get some historical facts on behalf of this person. Rabbi Chazan said he had come across a letter of the Rebbe written in 1964 to Kadish Luz, speaker of the Israeli Knesset, a relative of this person. He told me that he would send it to me. But weeks passed and I did not receive the letter.

The second of the two letters that had been faxed to me before the meeting was a letter to Kadish Luz. When I reached Rabbi Chazan he told me the following: "Last night, at 3 a.m., I suddenly remembered that I had never sent the Kadish Luz letter to you. I could not fall asleep. I felt like something was pushing me to send it right then. I got out of bed, got dressed, walked over to my office at the library and found the unpublished letter. It was part of a signature (four pages that when folded become a section of a book) with another letter and rather than tear off the first letter I sent the whole thing. "


Moshiach Matters

The Passover Seder celebrates our simple faith and commitment to G-d, and we should fill this celebration with joy. We must also recognize our good fortune that G-d's mighty hand and outstretched arm constantly reach out to every one of us. This trust in G-d makes us truly free from all worries - physical and spiritual. As we begin the Seder, we should lift our cups to G-d in thanks for our liberty, in joy for His helping hand, and with the pure faith that by following in His ways, the ways of the Torah, we will all achieve true and lasting freedom - personal and universal - and march from Passover to the complete and Final Redemption with the coming of Moshiach.

(The Rebbe, Passover, 5715 / Moshiach Hagada)


  1316: Metzora 
   
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