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Breishis Genesis

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L'Chaim
November 19, 1993 - 5 Kislev, 5754

293: Vayetzei

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  292: Toldos294: Vayishlach  

Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  Dov Lederberg  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

A villager decided that when the "horseless engine" finally made it to his little town, he would be one of the first passengers. He started saving his rubles so that when the final tracks were laid he would be able to travel to the big city on the train.

Days, weeks, months passed. Finally, the last tracks were laid and passengers were urged to buy their tickets. When our villager got to the ticket booth, he took out his saved-up rubles, and was informed that he had enough for a first-class ticket. In one week the train would depart. The long-awaited day finally came. The train, all shiny and clean, stood immobile at the station. No passengers were yet allowed on.

Suddenly, the villager noticed a few shabbily dressed men approaching the train from the field and quietly sliding themselves onto luggage racks under the train.

Since the entire phenomenon of train-travel was new and unusual, the villager assumed that this was the way everyone would be traveling. Hoping to avoid the rush and wanting to possibly get an entire rack for himself--after all, he had a first-class ticket--the villager slid himself onto the rack. And there, with great anticipation, the villager waited.

The villager waited and waited and finally dozed off. When he woke up he found himself whizzing along the countryside. When the train reached its first stop, the villager slid out of his rack to stretch his legs. He was confronted by the conductor who began berating the villager for trying to stow away on the train.

In shock and rather indignantly, the villager told the conductor that he had paid good money for a "first-class ticket." He took the ticket from his wallet and handed it to the conductor.

Now it was the conductor's turn to be surprised. "Why are you traveling as a stowaway when you have a first class ticket?" the conductor asked.

The villager explained that when he saw people "boarding" the racks under the train, he followed suit.

For the rest of the journey to the big city, of course, this little mistake was rectified and the villager truly went "first-class" to his final destination.


Every single one of us is holding a first-class ticket. However, unlike the villager, who earnestly saved up his rubles to purchase his first-class ticket, our generation, simply by virtue of living in this era of the "footsteps of Moshiach," has been issued first-class tickets for the Messianic Era.

The Rebbe declared over 40 years ago that ours is the "last generation of exile and the first generation of the Redemption." In addition, two years ago, the Rebbe has stated that everything necessary for Moshiach to come has been done and it is encumbent upon us only to prepare for and welcome Moshiach.

In essence, what we do with this knowledge, and the first-class tickets our generation has been issued, is totally in our own hands.

Jewish teachings discuss different ways to hasten and prepare for Moshiach. By following these instruc-tions we would be using our tickets properly. The suggestions of our Sages include giving extra charity, fostering unity and love amongst our fellow-Jews, observing Shabbat, and increasing one's Jewish studies.

More recently, when the Rebbe announced that the Redemption is imminent, he gave us further suggestions as to how best prepare ourselves and the world for its final destination: learn more about Moshiach and the Redemption; discuss with others the imminence of the Redemption; start living in a "Moshiach" manner--more peacefully, more connected to G-d, more conscious of holiness and our ultimate purpose; and perfect the mitzvot that we're already doing.

Each one of us has the unique opportunity to travel first class to the Redemption. Anywhere along the way we can wiggle ourselves out of the luggage racks, show our ticket, and proudly proceed to the place which has been reserved especially for us. It depends only on one thing--our own desire to do so.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, Jacob escapes from his deceitful father-in-law, Laban. "And Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels." Surprisingly, Jacob attends to the needs of his children before ensuring the security of his wives. Later (as we read in next week's Torah portion), when Jacob meets his brother Esau, his wives take precedence over the children. "And he took his two wives and his two concubines and his eleven sons."

According to Torah, a husband is obligated to put his wife's welfare before his children, and is enjoined to honor his wife even more than himself. Without her, obviously, the children would never have been born. In addition, putting one's wife first sets a positive example for the children, who see their father treating their mother with respect. Why then, did Jacob tend to his sons before his wives in the first instance?

According to Rashi, the great Torah commentator, one characteristic of Esau was that he always "placed the females before the males." The end result, therefore, was that both Jacob and Esau put their wives before their children, but for reasons that were diametrically opposed.

Esau lived a life entirely dictated by his uncontrollable desires. Women were of great importance to Esau, but not because he sought to honor and respect them. His children were therefore of secondary importance.

To Jacob, however, his children represented the continuation of the Jewish people and their holy service of G-d. Jacob put his wives before his sons as an expression of respect for women's role and in order to properly educate his children.

In general, the terms "male" and "female" are used as symbols for the intellect and the emotions. "Male" stands for cold, hard logic, untempered by compassion, whereas "female" refers to the heart and the capacity for warmth. In his personal life, Jacob placed the "male" before the "female," that is, his emotions were ruled by his intellect and were not subject to his personal desires. Esau, on the other hand, was dominated by his lusts, unable to control his appetites in the endless search for self-gratification. Esau employed his intellect only as far as it could further the fulfillment of his passions.

Yet, in certain instances, the heart has a definite advantage over the intellect, which may sometimes be overwhelmed by a difficult challenge. Man's intelligence is limited, but his emotions can reach beyond the limits of human understanding. Esau could have attained spiritual greatness, had he properly utilized and developed his superior emotional range.

In fact, when Moshiach comes, speedily in our day, the "heart" will be in ascendance over the "intellect," for the "female" quality of emotion will be fully revealed, taking precedence over the "male" quality of cold intellect.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

Dov Lederberg

by Basha Majerczyk

Dissatisfied with the limitations imposed by the traditional canvas most other artisans willingly accept, artist Dov Lederberg has created a body of work which attempts to portray the infinite reality of the universe, as expounded upon in Chasidic philosophy, that lies behind our perception of the physical world. "I wanted to go beyond the restrictions of structure and form," he explains. "Something new must be offered each time a work of art is viewed--a new teaching, a new expression, a new configuration."

According to Chasidut, the physical world was created by G-d's Ten Utterances, which brought it into being and continue to sustain it. As explained in Tanya, the various combinations of the sacred Hebrew letters of G-d's speech ensure the world's continued existence. If G-d's life-giving speech were to cease for even a second, the world would return to nothingness. Physical reality, therefore, is only a "front" for the Hebrew letters behind it, in all their variations, permutations and contractions.

Dov Lederberg sees his art as a visual springboard for Chasidic meditation, bringing the viewer to a greater understanding of Chasidic teachings and a higher appreciation of G-dliness. The artist's role, he continues, is to convey these Chasidic concepts so that the viewer himself will react in a creative way.

The artist's colorful prints teem with life, drawing the viewer inside. The Hebrew letters he depicts--the word "Echad" ("One"), "Shalom" ("Peace"), "Beraishit" ("In the beginning..." or "Mizrach" ("East"--the direction in which our prayers are directed), for example--become a vessel for the G-dly light which sustains them to shine through and illuminate. Although two-dimensional, his works seem to shimmer with texture and movement, as waves of intense color radiate from the holy letters.

Another favorite subject of his works is derived from the Chasidic teaching stressing the importance of gazing upon the face of a tzadik. Many of Dov's prints include portraits of the Rebbe, shlita. His works reveal a message: In one, superimposed over the Hebrew word for exile--"gola"--is the letter "alef," as the Rebbe looks on in the background. The only difference between exile and redemption (geula), the Rebbe has said, is the addition of the letter "alef." Our task is to effect that "alef" through our own actions, tipping the scales in favor of righteousness and bringing the Final Redemption.

Dov Lederberg, a self-described "first-wave" returnee to Jewish observance who became a baal teshuva some thirty years ago, considers his high-tech art form, a convergence of computer image processing techniques with Jewish mysticism, merely a reflection of the world's overall preparation for the Messianic Era. Seen in historical perspective, Dov Lederberg's utilization of cutting-edge computer technology in his art is but the visual facet of this process, as all of human knowledge and technology hurtles toward integration and linkage, yielding never-before potential for communication and betterment of the human condition. "I see myself as an artist of the era of the Third Temple," Lederberg says.

Specifically, he explains, this tremendous burst of activity in the visual arts may be seen as fulfillment of G-d's promise to restore full vision to the Jewish people, a faculty impaired by the destruction of the Holy Temple 2,000 years ago. The ability to truly see G-dliness as it exists was taken away at that time, although our hearing remained intact. Ultimate "seeing," Lederberg concludes, will be restored when Moshiach is fully revealed, and the G-dliness hidden within creation will be uncovered in all its glory.

Dov Lederberg's subjects include the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the Five Books of the Torah, visions of the Holy Temple, and other Jewish themes. An American residing in Israel since 1967, Dov travels extensively, presenting his original prints to appreciative audiences the world over, often in conjunction with local Chabad Houses, providing all with inspiration, a higher level of insight and awe of the Creator.


What's New

NEW YESHIVA IN JERICHO

A new yeshiva recently opened in an ancient synagogue in Jericho. Under the protection of the Israeli Army, the yeshiva operates from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. The yeshiva students stay in the nearby settlement of Mitzpe Jericho. The yeshiva, under the directorship of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsberg--who also heads the Kever Yosef yeshiva in Shechem--was established with the approval and blessings of the Rebbe.


The Rebbe Writes

An official translation of a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

2nd day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5715 (1955)

To the Conference of Religious Physicians,

I was pleased to be informed of your conference, designed to create an organized body of Jewish religious physicians. Unification of religious forces was always desirable, especially in our generation, a generation confused and perplexed by the shattering events of recent years, as a result of which many thinking people have become completely disillusioned in the false ideas and ideologies which they had held in the past, and are now earnestly searching for the truth.

An organized body of religious physicians could make its influence felt in these circles through a declaration of their authoritative opinion on several issues, which have been the subject of confused and misleading controversy.

Such a declaration should, first of all, do away with the misconception about any conflict between science and religion. True science, the object of which is the truth and nothing but the truth, can lead to no conclusions which are contrary to our Torah, "the Law of Truth." On the contrary, the more deeply one delves into science, the stronger must grow the recognition of the truth of the fundamental principles, as well as the ramifications, of our Jewish religion.

As physicians, in particular, you are in a position to refute decisively the materialistic philosophy, as is demonstrated by the fact that so much of physical health depends on spiritual health. If in modern days emphasis was placed on "mons sana in corpore sana," in our days it is a matter of general conviction that even a small defect spiritually causes a grievous defect physically; and the healthier the spirit and the greater its preponderance over the physical body--the greater its ability to correct or overcome physical shortcoming; so much so, that in many cases even physical treatments, prescriptions and drugs are considerably more effective if they are accompanied by the patient's strong will and determination to cooperate.

This principle of "mind over matter," i.e., of quality over quantity, is further emphasized by the fact, which is continually gaining recognition, that the vital functions of the organism do not depend on quantity, inasmuch as the glands, and the hormones, vitamins, etc., which they produce, are quite minute quantitatively.

Parenthetically: It is written in our holy Scriptures, "From my flesh I visualize G-d." Recognizing the preponderance of the soul in the physical body (the microcosm), there remains but a small step to the recognition of G-d, the "soul" of the Universe (the macrocosm). And in the words of our Sages: "As the soul fills the body, vivifies it, sees, but is not seen--so the Holy One, blessed is He, fills the world, vivifies it, sees, but is not seen."

So much for speaking in general terms. Specifically, many are the questions directly relating to the practice of the physician, some of them of practical and immediate importance, on which your voice should be heard. To mention but a few:

To declare the paramount importance of the observance of the laws of Taharat HaMishpocha--Jewish marriage; the observance of kashrut--the dietary laws; circumcision.

Elimination of treatment likely to cause sterility, and substituting for it other forms of treatment; particularly, in connection with surgery on the prostate...

Postmortem: For purposes of study of anatomy, etc., it is surely possible to use artificial forms and models; for purposes of ascertaining the case of death--in many cases it is not essential; where it may be of immediate necessity to save a life (as in the case of an accusation of poisoning, etc.), mutilation of the body should be reduced to the essential minimum, and the parts should be buried afterwards.

And so on.

Needless to say, what has been mentioned above about pointing out the health benefits that are derived from the observance of the religious precepts, should not be understood as an attempt to explain the precepts by their utilitarian value. For, the Divine precepts must be observed because they are the command and will of our Creator.

However, for the benefit of those who, by reason of spiritual "sickness," cannot be induced to observe the precepts except by making them aware of their utilitarian value, we must do everything possible to urge them to observe the mitzvot in daily life, even if we have to rationalize about the Divine commands, and emphasize their physical benefits....


Rambam this week


A Word from the Director

"How can we be so certain that the Redemption is imminent? Give me some clear signs," people sometimes demand.

More than 1,000 years ago, negative and the positive signs of the era preceding the arrival of Moshiach--known as "ikvesa d'meshicha" (the footsteps of Moshiach)--were foretold.

In the Mishna (Sota), it is written, "With the advent of the footsteps of Moshiach, insolence will increase and prices will soar... the government will turn to heresy and no one will rebuke them... the meeting place of scholars will be used for immorality... those who fear sin will be despised; youth will put old men to shame... a son will revile his father, a daughter will rise up against her mother..." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

One of the explanations for the upsurge of evil as described above is that at a later stage in the Messianic Era, evil and impurity will be totally eradicated from the world. Therefore, in the era immediately preceding the Redemption, evil puts up a "valiant" fight and musters its last drops of power, just as a fighter who is almost down employs his last ounce of strength to overcome his opponent.

All is not bad, however, for we also mentioned that there are positive signs, many of which have already been fulfilled. The Zohar states that there will be tremendous scientific and technological discoveries and advances as well as a propagation of the mystical teachings of the Torah. And we have certainly seen this. Our prophets (Malachi) also discuss a return to Judaism, particularly among the younger generation.

There have been wondrous events unimaginable only a decade ago, such as the fall of communism, as well as open miracles, such as Israel's safety during the SCUD missile attacks of the Gulf War.

The Rebbe has also cited the signing of agreements between major political powers and specifically the channeling of monies previously set aside for war to go toward food and agriculture as a partial fulfillment of Isaiah's famous prophecy, "They will beat their swords into plowshares."

An additional foretaste of the Messianic Era is the ingathering of the exiles, particularly the Russian Jews who have arrived in Israel in the hundreds of thousands.

From all of the above, we can see without a doubt that it really is "happening." As the saying goes, make sure to "Be a Part of It."


Thoughts that Count

Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Charan (Gen. 28:10)

Rabbi Pinchas said, in the name of Rabbi Abahu: According to the Torah, whomever a person marries is predestined by G-d. Some people must go out to meet their mate; others have their mate come to them. Isaac's wife, Rivka, came to him: "And Isaac went out to meditate in the field...and he lifted up his eyes and saw, behold, there were camels coming. And Rivka lifted up her eyes, and she saw Isaac." Jacob, however, had to travel to Charan to meet his future wives.

(Breishit Rabba)

And he reached (vayifga) a certain place (Gen. 28:11)

The Hebrew word "vayifga," "and he reached," implies prayer. It was especially necessary for Jacob to pray for guidance as he set out for Charan, for he knew that the challenges he would find there would be far more trying than those he had experienced in the rarefied atmosphere of the yeshiva. He therefore prayed for the strength to withstand the difficult trials he would encounter.

(Likutei Sichot)

The day is yet long (Gen. 29:7)

Such is the way of the world: When a person is in his prime, he sees no need to hurry, as he still has plenty of time to devote to refining his character--"the day is yet long." When that long-delayed time comes, however, he finds that the day is almost over.

(Maharish of Mezritch)

Fulfill the week of this, and we will give you this one too (Gen. 29:27)

Our Patriarchs observed the entire Torah, even before it was given on Mount Sinai. How then, could Jacob have married two sisters, something which was later prohibited?

Our forefathers took upon themselves the observance of all the Torah's laws, even though they had not been commanded to do so, as an extra measure of devotion to G-d. If those mitzvot which they were not commanded to observe conflicted with precepts they had explicitly been told by G-d to observe, they did not keep the mitzva which had not been commanded. Jacob had already promised Rachel (who worried she might become the bride of Esau) that he would marry her. Failure to do so would constitute grave deceit. Therefore, although he was already married to Leah, Jacob was not allowed to observe the future law of not marrying two sisters, and was required to fulfill his promise and marry Rachel.

(A Thought For The Week)


It Once Happened

An upright young merchant once set out from his home in Vilkomir to buy up stocks of tobacco in Niezhin. Though not a chasid himself, he was on very friendly terms with a celebrated chasid by the name of Reb Yaakov Kadaner, so before he left he called on Reb Yaakov, who said: "My friend! Even though you are not a chasid, I would still ask you to visit the grave of a renowned tzadik who is buried in Niezhin, Reb Dov Ber of Lubavitch, the son of Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi."

The young man gave his promise, and set out for a journey that was to take six months. While he was far away trying to do business, his wife became so desperately ill that the doctors despaired of her life. One evening she lost consciousness, and though three expert physicians sat by her bedside all night, there was nothing they could do to help her. Then, at ten in the morning her illness loosened its hold on her, she began to regain her strength. Within a month, without the aid of doctors or medicines she regained her strength and was strong and robust. Her friends were amazed, but not nearly as much as the doctors.

When her husband finally came home, he barely stuck his nose in the door. Without even stopping to take off his overcoat, he ran off in agitation to the home of his friend Reb Yaakov.

"Now I ask you," said Reb Yaakov, "is this the way to do things? After you have been away from home for over half a year, you don't even stay there a little while to gladden the hearts of your wife and little ones, but off you run to say hello to me?! There must be something behind your behavior, something remarkable."

"And indeed," affirmed the other, "something remarkable did bring me to you, something of a marvel. You see, my business dealings out there fell through, and I not only lost everything I owned, but got myself deep into debt through all kinds of unfortunate circumstances that befell me on the way. To make things worse, throughout all that time I was in a state of fear: I imagined that my wife was desperately ill. When I arrived in Niezhin I recalled my promise to you, and went to the local mikva to immerse myself in preparation for my visit to the holy resting place of the tzadik. Though all the way there my warm clothes had sufficed to keep out the bitter cold, as soon as I came close to where he lay I was overcome by an awesome fear, the likes of which I have never experienced. My hair stood on end, and despite my warm clothes I trembled in a feverish cold. It even occurred to me to flee from that fearful place, but then I thought: 'No evil is going to befall me on account of the tzadik who lies here. Why should I flee from the presence of the tzadik?' So I began instead to read the quotations from the Zohar, and the chapters from Psalms, and other passages, which are inscribed there on a tablet, on the wall of the enclosure which is built around the grave. And while I read, I wept rivers of tears. Then I wrote out two notes which expressed my special requests--one note bearing a prayer for the welfare of my family and myself, and the other especially for my wife, for my heart was uneasy. The moment I put those two notes on the grave, I was overcome with the most exquisite joy I had ever experienced. It was just as I imagine the flavor of the Garden of Eden to be. It took me two full hours to tear myself away from that bliss, and to depart from there with a heart full of gladness and peace.

"That joy accompanied me all the way home, and when I arrived, I was told the whole story of what my wife had been through, including the events of that long, long night that ended only at ten in the morning. I asked what date this had been. Sure enough, it was the very day on which, at ten o'clock in the morning, I had placed the notes on the resting place of the tzadik. You cannot be surprised, therefore, that when I heard all of this, I did not even take off my greatcoat, but ran as fast as I could to tell you, my friend, of the wondrous ways of heaven.

"I have only one thing to add. If your Rebbes are so alive and luminous after they have departed from this world, then they must be even greater and even holier in their lifetime!"

From A Treasury of Chasidic Tales, Mesorah Publishing.


Moshiach Matters

"In the beginning G-d created the Heavens and the earth...and the spirit of G-d hovered upon the waters..." -- this refers to the spirit of Moshiach.

(Baal HaTurim on Genesis 1:2)


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