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December 17, 1993 - 3 Tevet, 5754

297: Vayigash

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


  296: Miketz298: Vayechi  

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

by Rabbi Eli Hecht

South African Premier F.W. de Klerk won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. His partner is none other than Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader. What strange bedfellows they make. Imagine, the Nobel Peace Prize going to people who still accuse each other of the most heinous crimes. Selecting such people for the Nobel Peace Prize is nothing short of insanity.

The way Israel and the PLO are acting it may be that Prime Minister Rabin and Yasser Arafat are more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. What they are doing in the name of peace is truly insane. By early next year the PLO movement, which still has a charter to destroy Israel, will be granted statehood, with Jericho its capital. The PLO will be expected to take care of all the Arab problems, from the Gaza Strip to Jerusalem.

Yassir Arafat is accused of stealing over 500 million dollars from the PLO. He cannot account for the three billion dollars he had a year ago. Now, he is becoming the new Arab spokesman for peace with the Jews. Can you think of anything more absurd?

Originally, Rabin stated he would shake hands with Arafat as soon as Arafat rewrote the PLO Charter, eliminating the clause to destroy Israel, and stopped the Arab embargo. The U.S. agreed that these requests are prerequisites for an agreement. The Arab boycott office has a blacklist of 96 countries. In the U.S.A. 12,000 firms were asked by the Arab boycott not to deal with the Jewish state. This boycott has cost the Israeli economy 10 percent of their expected exports. With limited seaports and airports open to Israel it cannot have economic growth. The Arab embargo is as strong as ever. Israel has promised to donate 75 million dollars to help the PLO with its plans for self-rule. Percentage-wise, that is the largest amount pledged by any country. Why should Israel do such a thing? Even as Jews and Arabs meet there is no understanding of where Jericho begins or ends. According to Rabin, Jericho is just a bit over 25 sq. kilometers. The Palestinians believe it encompasses over 300 kilometers! The PLO claims that there will be a return of 800,000, while Israel says they will only grant a return of 300,000. More differences crop up every day.

Imagine, PLO guerilla fighters who languished in Israeli prisons will be given guns and allowed to join a 12,000 man army to govern Gaza and Jericho. Would you arm your enemy on a promise that he'll behave?

There are leaders in Israel who say they have nothing to lose: if the PLO makes trouble, they will take back the areas. How naive! Does anybody believe that you can give autonomy to people such as the PLO and then take it back?

A major difference between the Arab countries and Israel is that Israel is a democracy and the only true friend America has in the Middle East. It has proven itself to the U.S.A. for the past 45 years. At the same time the PLO sided with Iraq during the latest major conflict and is still supporting terrorists in Egypt and other countries friendly to the U.S.A.

True, the United States believes in giving peace a chance but, at the same time, the U.S. should not fool Israel into thinking that she will be able to help her. When and if there is a problem between the PLO and Israel, America will be powerless.

To think that the world will not blame Israel if the PLO moderate leadership fights between themselves is foolhardy. Does anyone remember what happened in Lebanon? The Israeli army pulled out of Beirut and the Christian Lebanese army came in and slaughtered hundreds of PLO families and fighters in their refugee camps at Sabra and Shatilla. Who was blamed? Israel!

We have heard cries for peace before and we ought to be very prudent. In pre-war World War II it was Chamberlain who said that by trading land for peace there would be no war. "I believe it is peace in our time," Chamberlain said. How wrong he was! Hitler said, after receiving the Sudetan mountains, "I could not be satisfied with the Sudetan territory," and then continued in overrunning and conquering Czechoslovakia. So, too, are the plans of the PLO. Today it will be Jericho, tomorrow Jerusalem.

So now we have peace with neither plans, brains nor truth.

How can the world perceive peace talks as honest when Israel is forced to abandon the 125,000 Jewish settlers on the West Bank, give 75 million dollars to build Arab cities, and give arms to its former prisoners, enemies of the state? The feuding within Arafat's Fatah organization shows that there is no true leadership. To whom is Israel relinquishing her money, security and land?

There are so many loose ends that the leaders of both sides will soon be forced to accuse each other of the most awful things. And guess what, that may make them eligible for the Noble Peace Prize.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vayigash, Joseph, viceroy of Egypt, dramatically reveals his true identity to his incredulous brothers. Joseph reassures them that the entire sequence of events, beginning with his being sold into slavery to his eventual rise to power, was the hand of G-d guiding him from above. "It was not you that sent me here, but G-d," he tells his brothers, contrite after their years of separation. Joseph then asks them to carry the following message back to their father, Jacob: "G-d has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me (to Egypt); do not tarry."

At first glance, Joseph's choice of words seems odd. If Joseph's intent was merely to convince Jacob to undertake the lengthy journey, why would he imagine that his elderly father would be swayed by the news that his son now occupied a high political office?

Rather, Jacob knew that the Jewish people was destined to go into exile in Egypt. When informed of Joseph's rise to power, he understood that this was an integral part of that process. Once that stage was reached it was time for Jacob to follow and the next phase to begin.

Many years before, G-d had explained the objective of the exile in Egypt: "And afterwards (after the exile), they will emerge with great wealth," G-d promised Abraham at the Covenant of the Pieces. Under Joseph's tenure, Egypt was transformed into a wealthy nation. In exchange for the food he had so cleverly stockpiled, Joseph collected much of the world's riches--all done in order for the Jews to eventually depart Egypt "with great wealth."

Indeed, the accumulation of wealth was one of the prime reasons behind the entire 210-year exile. In fact, the plague of darkness was visited upon the Egyptians in part to give the Jews the opportunity to observe the vessels of gold and silver they would afterward request when they left.

Yet the concept of "great wealth" must be understood on a deeper level as well, not only in the literal sense. The material riches accumulated by the Jewish people was only a reflection of the great spiritual wealth with which they left Egypt. For the Jews were sent into exile for the purpose of extracting and refining the sparks of holiness hidden within the most morally degraded and degenerate place on earth--Egypt. Those sparks of purity, once freed from their prison within Egypt's "49 gates of impurity," were the ultimate riches derived by the Jews during their exile.

The accumulation of "wealth" is likewise the purpose of our present exile as well--extracting the good from the corporeal world and transforming it into holiness by utilizing physical objects for the purpose of Torah and mitzvot.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita, has stated that this process is now complete. Over the thousands of years of exile, the Jewish people has uncovered and elevated all of these sparks of holiness, dispersed throughout the four corners of the earth. According to Divine plan, the time has therefore come for G-d to fulfill His promise and send Moshiach, NOW!

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

Mishulem Drapkin, his wife Suzy, and three daughters

by Mishulem Laib Drapkin

I grew up knowing that I was named after my great-grandfather Mishulem, who was my mother's mother's father. For most of my life, my only connection to him was a name and a very old picture. He looked like a gentleman who would more likely be a resident of Crown Heights today than of the Westchester suburb where I now live. But I was always struck by his dancing eyes.

When I was young, my parents sent me to a Conservative Hebrew school where they had us use our Hebrew names instead of our everyday English names. I was embarrassed with the name "Mishulem" and wouldn't use it. It was too unusual. Instead, I used "Mi-cha-el" which was closer to my secular name "Michael."

My bubby, of blessed memory, never spoke about her father Mishulem, having left the old country when she was a young girl. I learned much later that my Uncle Milt and also my mother's first cousin Malcolm were also Mishulems--named after the same man as I.

I loved my bubby, even though she was a tough woman. Our family members used to tease her because she never smiled in the family photographs. But I always remembered her dancing eyes--the same eyes I would see in the picture of my great-grandfather Mishulem. My mother and my uncle also had these eyes. They would light up like two flickering flames that would dance when they smiled. The smiles with the dancing eyes always somehow made me feel that the world was a happy place.

When I started returning to Yiddishkeit a number of years ago, one of the net results of my teshuva was to feel a greater connection to my family and relatives. My Uncle Milt told me that my bubby's first cousin lived in Manhattan, and that I might want to look him up. I decided to call him.

He welcomed me to his house and immediately asked, "How's my Malke Brucha [my bubby's Hebrew name]!" He regaled me with stories about her when they were younger. He also grew up in the same town in Russia where his uncle (my great-grandfather) Mishulem lived. I was burning with curiosity about my great-grandfather, and questioned my uncle at length about him and what he was like, what kind of person he was.

He told me that my great-grandfather was a highly respected and learned member of his town, and that frequently people would come to ask him for advice. In my mind I imagined from such a description that my great-grandfather must have been a great, pious man.

Unfortunately, a few years after that my bubby passed away. I inherited some of Zaidy's holy books, but of greatest interest were my grandparents' ketuba (marriage contract) and especially my bubby's exit visa from the old country, dated from the early part of the century.

I asked some Russian cousins of mine if they would translate the exit visa, since it was written entirely in Russian. It was an interesting document, especially the part where the officials listed her nationality as "Jew." But the most interesting part to me was the part where it listed her father's name. It read: Reb Mishulem.

Recently, a delegation from my shul was invited to an audience with a distinguished rabbi at a yeshiva near us. On arrival we were enthusiastically received by chasidim with long flowing beards and long black coats. We were ushered into the rabbi's study. As he spoke, we sat in rapt attention, listening to his words of wisdom.

While listening to the rabbi and seeing the chasidim standing around us, I couldn't help but think of my great-grandfather. Despite the fact that history and humanity have carved out a much different world from the one he lived in, he would have visited this yeshiva and found a home, and he would have come to our shul and found a place to daven. They both would have felt right to him, just as it felt right to me listening to the words of this elderly and distinguished rabbi. Some of the fundamental things that give life meaning have never really changed over time: study of Torah, mitzvot, living and standing up as a Jew. I knew that if my great-grandfather was looking down over the intervening generations and could see me there listening to the rabbi's words, he would be nodding his head and smiling with the knowledge that his great-grandson had returned to Torah.

By the way, I also returned to using my real Hebrew name, Mishulem Laib, which I now feel very comfortable with and even proud of. Throughout my life, I was always one of a multitude of Michaels, always a "Michael who?" But when I'm Mishulem, I can telephone anyone in shul and say, "It's Mishulem"--just the name Mishulem--and they all know who it is.

While "Michael" is my name in the secular world, Mishulem is my real identity, the name with which my neshama cried out with joy, having been freed through the rediscovery of my great-grandfather's world, where it can now flicker and dance along with my own eyes--eyes passed down from generation to generation.

Mr. Drapkin is a member of the Mt. Kisco Hebrew Congregation in NY, and a project manager at Lehman Brothers.


What's New

MOSHIACH CATALOGUE

The International Moshiach Center has issued a catalogue of over 500 items relating to Moshiach and the Redemption. Books, brochures, audio and video tapes, bumper stickers, T-shirts and much more are all included in this comprehensive catalogue. For a copy, send your name and address to I.M.C., 355 Kingston Ave., Bklyn, NY 11213 or fax (718) 363-1221.

SHLUCHIM CONVENTION

This past month, over 1,000 Chabad-Lubavitch representatives from around the world convened at World Lubavitch Headquarters in Brooklyn for the annual Convention of Lubavitch Emissaries. The theme of the convention, "To Prepare Oneself and the World for Moshiach" was discussed at workshops and in major addresses. There were also sessions on campus outreach, working with immigrants from the C.I.S., Jewish education, and many other topics of import to the rabbis who gathered from all over the globe.

A WORLD OF GOOD

One of the main resolutions of the International Convention of Lubavitch Emissaries was to implement internationally a project that encourages Jews and non-Jews to do additional kind acts and good deeds in preparation for Moshiach. This project was inspired by the Rebbe's statement to C.N.N. two years ago when they asked him what his message to the world is. The Rebbe responded: "Moshiach is ready to come, now. It is only on our part to do additional acts of goodness and kindness. Stay tuned.


The Rebbe Writes

Eve of Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 5734 (1974)

I was pleased to receive your letter of January 10th, following the personal regards which I have received through mutual friends, as well as the reports about your involvement with Lubavitch and Chabad teachings, etc.

All of this is especially pertinent at this time in our Jewish calendar, the period between Chanuka and Yud (10th of) Shevat. Coming from Chanuka, the festival of Lights, which symbolizes the light of the Torah and mitzvot, we are reminded of the Chasidic emphasis on inspired joy and brightness which should permeate the life and activity of every Jew. Moreover, as in the case of light which is of immediate benefit not only to the one who lights it, but also to many others at the same time, so a Jew has to illuminate his personal life as well as his surroundings with the light of Torah and mitzvot. This is also emphasized by the special requirements that the Chanuka lights be seen outside, so as to illuminate those who might still be walking in darkness.

Similarly, Yud Shevat, the yahrzeit of my father-in-law of saintly memory, brings to mind his dedicated efforts in the course of the last decade of his life in this country, to spread the principles and teachings of Chasidut to many who were "outside." Thus, many "outsiders" became "insiders," whose lives were brightly illuminated with the light, vitality and warmth of Chasidut, and who in turn became "shining lights" illuminating others.

Your joining this ever-growing Chasidic family which has found a new meaning in life and, with it, peace and happiness, has a special significance in that you are a Kohen, and also in that Divine Providence has given you a gift of song and melody. For this is a medium that directly communicates with the heart and the inner aspects of the soul, unlike prose which speaks to the intellect and only then can probe deeper. Through the medium of song and melody one can touch directly upon the heartstrings of the listener and inspire his inner soul which is the reason why song and melody have such a prominent part in Chasidut in general, and in Chabad in particular.

In the light of the above, I extend to you both my prayerful wishes to utilize to the full the capacities and opportunities which G-d has given you in the above-mentioned direction, and to do this in the Chabad way--with complete trust in G-d and with inspiration, and may G-d bless you with success to go from strength to strength in all the above, in good health and with gladness of heart.

19 Tevet, 5725 (1965)

The importance and necessity of peaceful and harmonious relationships have been amply explained in many of our holy sources. This is particularly important when there is a mitzva to be fulfilled by a group of people, all the more so since of the Torah it is said that "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace."

I am therefore writing this letter to you, as I am also writing to the others who together with you are involved in efforts to spread Torah and mitzvot. I am aware that each one of you has been active in this area to a certain extent, but not to the extent that could have been attained if all of you would stand together in closer friendship, and would cooperate and coordinate your activities. I realize, of course, that where there is a group of people involved they do not always see eye to eye on everything, but this is nothing unusual, as our Sages of the Mishna have told us, "People differ in their thinking as they differ in their physiognomy." Yet, it is always possible to discuss and settle differences in a friendly way, inasmuch as all are imbued with the same ideals and have the same goal in mind, so that those ideals and goals could be attained with a truly concerted and concentrated effort.

From this distance it is difficult for me to enter into details; nor is it necessary, for details and circumstances often change. But the goal remains the same, and considering how important and vital it is to have G-d's blessing in these efforts, bearing in mind that "Peace is the vessel containing G-d's blessing," I am confident that each one of you will approach this matter wholeheartedly. You will then certainly be able to find a way to pool your resources to their utmost capacity and efficiency, while at the same time each one will have an opportunity to utilize his particular capacities in the fullest measure, each one in his particular area, and also in those areas where joint action is necessary by two or three, etc. As mentioned above, I must leave the details and particulars to you, to resolve them locally, as they appear. The important thing, however, is the attitude. Moreover, we have been assured that "A person sanctifies himself a little here on earth, and he is sanctified a great deal from on High." Your resolution to act accordingly will immediately open new insights to you, and you will see how easily it can be accomplished.


Rambam this week


A Word from the Director

Previously, we have briefly discussed some of the positive signs heralding the Messianic Era.

In more detail, the Zohar states that in the 600th year of the 6th millennium "the gates of sublime wisdom will open and the wellsprings of lower wisdom will burst forth to prepare the world to enter the seventh millennium."

The year mentioned in the Zohar corresponds to 5600 since creation or 1839 in the secular calendar. In fact, we see that there have been numerous scientific, medical and technological discoveries since then. This was the opening of the wellsprings of wisdom below.

The opening of the gates of wisdom above is evidenced by a manifestation and propagation of the mystical teachings of the Torah. The opening of these two gates is supposed to go hand-in-hand so that all of the advances and discoveries in science, medicine, etc., will--with the proper insight and understanding through the advances in the spreading of Torah knowledge--be used for positive and humane purposes. When they are not used in tandem, we wind up with catastrophic events like those which occurred in the previous generation.

In our days, the opening of these gates is further facilitating a unification of the material with the spiritual as witnessed by the fact that so much of modern technology is being used to spread Judaism, i.e., Jewish radio programs, cable T.V. shows, publications via fax and even live, intercontinental satellite hook-ups like the one just aired this past Sunday of Chanuka.

Concerning the importance of the Chanuka Live satellite program, during the program three years ago the Rebbe stated, "In this matter, not only does this satellite link communicate spiritual truth: it expresses it in itself. For satellite communication, like every other creation brought into being by G-d, exists for a purpose. As our Sages declare, "Whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory." In this instance, G-d revealed the wisdom for this and other technological advances that unite different parts of the world so that we could better appreciate the oneness that pervades all existence.


Thoughts that Count

For you are even as Pharaoh (Gen. 44:18)

Judah stood before the viceroy of Egypt and begged, "Just as Pharaoh recognized your qualities and lifted you out of prison, acknowledge our righteousness and allow us to reside in Egypt!"

(Midrash Torah)

But now, do not be sad (Gen. 45:5)

A person must do whatever is necessary to avoid sadness and depression. This is the meaning of the verse, "My sin I will declare; I am worried about my transgression"--"worrying" about one's sins is harmful, and sinful in itself.

Rabbi Mordechai Malkowitz used to say: The only worry a person is permitted to dwell upon is the worry that he is worried!

And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt (Gen. 47:14)

When Joseph was sold into slavery, the exile was effectively shortened from 400 years to 210 years; the last 86 years were the harshest and most severe.

Joseph, who was on a higher spiritual plane than his brothers, went down to Egypt before them to pave the way. By elevating the sparks of holiness, the exile was shortened for the entire Jewish people.

(Ohr Hatorah)

And Benjamin wept upon his neck (Gen. 45:14)

"For the Tabernacle at Shiloh (in Joseph's portion of the land) that would one day be destroyed," comments Rashi.

Why did Benjamin weep over the destruction of the Tabernacle, located in his brother's portion of Israel, and not over the destruction of the two Holy Temples, located in his own territory?

Because the sorrow of others should be even more keenly felt than one's own suffering.

(Rabbi Yechezkel of Kozimir)


It Once Happened

The sad and often tragic history of the Marranos of Spain and Portugal began more than a hundred years before the Expulsion in 1492, and continued for several hundred years after. The bloody pogroms that started in Spain in 1391 forced many Jews to accept Christianity in order to save their lives. These Jews were, from that time forth, under the watchful eyes of the Inquisition, a clerical tribunal set up to apprehend backsliding "New Christians."

On the slightest evidence, people were arrested, tortured, and often burned at the stake for the "sin" of secretly practicing Judaism. In spite of the terror of the Inquisition, many Jewish families continued observing the mitzvot in secret. One such family was the Nunez family of Portugal.

Over the generations, the secret of their Jewishness had been handed down from father to son and mother to daughter. Three of the family had paid with their lives for their loyalty to their faith: Clara, Isabella and Helen were all sentenced to death in 1632.

The family had branches in Spain and Portugal. The Portuguese family was considered among the aristocracy of that country. The head of that family, Samuel, or as he was known in Portuguese, Ribiero Nunez, was the court physician.

On the surface Samuel was a loyal Catholic, never arousing the slightest suspicion that he was a secret Jew. But the Inquisition set about to discover his secret.

One fanatical member of the tribunal succeeded in planting a spy in his household--a servant who was instructed to note all of the family activities and report back with his findings. Indeed, he returned to the tribunal with the news that the Samuel Nunez family was seen observing certain Jewish rituals.

Samuel Nunez's arrest caused a sensation in the land. A personal friend as well as physician to the king, Dr. Nunez was widely admired by the nobility. Although the king normally refrained from interfering with the actions of the Inquisition, he now used his influence to free the doctor.

The Inquisition freed him, but on the condition that an observer be installed in his home to watch for any questionable activities. Samuel Nunez decided that he had better plan an escape. It would be difficult to elude the spying eyes in his household, but Dr. Nunez seized upon brilliant idea. Dr. Nunez invited many of his distinguished friends to an elaborate banquet at his home. After the meal he announced that a grand surprise awaited them. His yacht was anchored outside his home on a nearby river, and he would be treating them to a lovely after-dinner cruise.

The tipsy guests boarded the ship in happy expectation of more entertainment. By the time they sobered up and realized they were far from shore, the Nunez family was well on their way to freedom in England. For, the "yacht" was a well-appointed British battleship commissioned by Dr. Nunez for the purpose of bringing his family to freedom. The surprised passengers were assured that provisions were in place for their return voyage, but the Nunezes would be remaining abroad, since their lives were in jeopardy in Portugal.

Careful planning had led to the success of his secret plan. Relatives in England were waiting for the Nunez family, and when they arrived there, they joined a group of Jewish refugees bound for the British Colonies of America.

In the summer of 1733 the Jews arrived in Savannah, Georgia, where Governor Oglethorpe provided them with the land they would need for homes and farming. When a protest was lodged by English trustees of the colony, saying, "We do not wish to make the American Colonies a Jewish settlement," Oglethorpe, an honest, liberal-minded man, ignored it.

Angry protests continued to issue from England to disenfranchise the Jews, and although the governor made a pretense of obeying, land records from that time show the Nunez family received the deed to six farms in the Savannah area.

Due to the continued anti-Jewish pressure, Dr. Nunez moved his family to Charleston, South Carolina for a time, later returning to Georgia, where he lived out his life. The doctor's son-in-law located in New York, where he became one of the leading members of the Spanish-Portuguese congregation there.

Adapted from The Storyteller, Kehot Publication Society.


Moshiach Matters

During the Previous Rebbe's lifetime, the Rebbe, shlita, once told chasidim at a gathering, "For whom do you think the Rebbe is suffering? For himself, he has Moshiach in his study. He wants you to have Moshiach!"


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