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298: Vayechi

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L'Chaim
December 24, 1993 - 10 Tevet, 5754

298: Vayechi

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  297: Vayigash299: Shemos  

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

Who doesn't love a wedding? The music, the flowers, the food, the beautiful bride, the father blessing his daughter before she is no longer his "little girl," the chupa, breaking of glass and shouting "Mazal Tov!"

For acquaintances and distant relatives, the anticipation begins when they receive the invitation. For closer friends and relatives, excitement mounts with each new detail shared and discussed.

For the bride, the groom and the immediate family, there is a constant build-up of excitement, anticipation and preparation. The bride and groom, in particular, are living with the wedding and the wedding plans: eating, breathing, and even sleeping, every detail of awesome event.

Imagine that you're an acquaintance. Every once in a while you remember that the date of the wed-ding is approaching. A quick check at the calendar or invitation ensures that you don't make any conflicting plans. A few days before the wedding you'll go out and buy a present, and a few hours before the actual wedding you'll get yourself ready to go. But until you actually arrive at the wedding hall, the myraid of details have little reality for you. You have to see them before you get truly excited.

If you're a close relative or friend, though, and you've been more involved in the preparations, you've probably mentioned it here and there--maybe even to colleagues who don't even know the bride or groom. Your excitement is more concrete than someone else's who's been less involved. Weeks in advance you wonder if you have something appropriate to wear or whether you'll need to buy something new. You'll ponder over just the right gift, and maybe you'll be involved in planning pre- or post-wedding celebrations. The wedding, with all of its details, is much more real to you than to the distance relative who will basically just show up at the right time and place.

And what if you were the bride or groom, or parents of the couple? Even months before the wedding it would be very real to you because you would be busily immersed in every aspect and detail of the big event. The excitement, anticipation and longing for that day would be tangible.

For the caterer, photographer, and band members, the excitement might not be there, but the wedding itself is certainly a reality, something they have been preparing for earnestly.

It's not hard to realize that the more one is involved in the actual, physical wedding plans, whether you're family, friends, or hired professionals, the more of a reality the wedding is to you.

This scenario is similar to the revelation of Moshiach and the Final Redemption. For, certainly, the Redemption has been likened to a wedding, specifically the consummation of the wedding between G-d and the Jewish people which took place at Mount Sinai.

The more we are involved in this ultimate wedding--the more we part-icipate in practical deeds and suitable activities relating to the Redemption--the more excited we will automatically become and the more of a reality it will be in our own lives.

That is why the Rebbe suggested that we study more about Moshiach and the Redemption as a preparation for the once-in-a-lifetime event. After all, could you imagine the bride or groom or parents of the couple not being perfectly prepared for the wedding, just going casually and arriving unprepared?

In addition, the Rebbe has encouraged us to engage in practical deeds and suitable activities which will further prepare us for this ultimate wedding, mitzvot that will help hasten the Redemption and accustom us to what it will be like living in the Messianic Era, when we'll be preoccupied with loftier pursuits and higher realities than we experience now. It can be as simple as another good deed, another kind act, to prepare us for a world where G-d's goodness and kindness will be clearly evident and where people's innate positive qualities will shine brightly to create a peaceful, healthy and benevolent world.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, Jacob, on his deathbed, makes a last request of his son Joseph. "Bury me not, I pray you, in Egypt!" he implores. "I will do as you have said," Joseph promises his father. But Joseph's promise is not enough. "Swear to me!" Jacob insists, and Joseph does.

Why was Joseph's promise insufficient? Was Jacob worried that his son would not fulfill his promise? What is the difference between a promise and an oath?

An oath differs from a promise in the sense of obligation and urgency it imposes. When a person makes a promise, he most certainly intends to carry out his word when the opportunity presents itself, but he does not spend all of his waking hours thinking about the promise and wondering how to implement it. But when a person utters an oath, it becomes the single most important motivating factor in his life. An oath is so serious, in fact, that the person dare not divert his mind from the matter for even a moment.

Jacob realized that what he asked of Joseph was so difficult and fraught with obstacles that the force of an oath was necessary.

This exchange between father and son also underscores an important difference between Jacob and Joseph: Jacob refused to be interred in Egypt, insisting that his body be brought back to the land of Israel for burial. Joseph, however, before his death, made the Jews swear they would take his bones back with them to Israel when the time for redemption came. His casket remained in Egypt for the duration of the exile.

It is erroneous to conclude that Jacob's request was made for selfish reasons; that he preferred to be buried in the holy soil of Israel while his children languished in Egyptian exile. Rather, Jacob's concern was for the welfare of the entire Jewish people.

"The prisoner cannot free himself from prison," our Sages have declared. The Jewish people, subjugated and enslaved, needed an outside force to free them from exile in Egypt. This outside force was the merit of Jacob, whose rightful place was the holy land of Israel, from where the Jewish people drew strength and spiritual sustenance.

Joseph, however, was exiled in Egypt with the rest of his brethren. His positive influence came from within and was therefore closer and more immediate. When he passed away, his remains stayed in Egypt, affording the Jews an additional merit. Jacob wanted to forestall the possibility that Joseph would want his body to remain in Egypt for this reason, and insisted that he swear to his request.

We learn from this that although the Divine Presence has indeed accompanied us throughout our exile, a Jew must nevertheless cry out for the galut to end and for all of us to be "carried out of Egypt." With faith and trust in G-d we will merit the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption, speedily in our day.

Adapted from Collected Talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 25.


A Slice of Life

by Baila Olidort

Lyons, the second largest city in France, is the world's capital of gastronomy, where four-star chefs have earned their reputation among epicurean travelers. In many Jewish ears, however, the name Lyons rings a bell for the trial of the infamous Klaus Barbie, the butcher of Lyons, which was held there in 1987.

Last October, Nobel prize laureate Elie Wiesel addressed the guests at the opening of the Musee de la Resistance et de la Deportation--the Museum of Resistance and Deportation. Established in the converted former Gestapo headquarters building, the museum, which honors Jean Moulin and other heroes of the French Resistance, features exhibits of Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis.

Following his speech, Mr. Wiesel visited Beth Menachem, the Chabad-Lubavitch elementary school in Lyons where a playground in its new building was named in his honor. Six young school boys, with yarmulkas and tzitzit, strongly reminiscent of Wiesel's childhood cheder so vividly described in his works, greeted the author and Holocaust survivor.

One of the boys read a letter composed by the students: "You've just been reminded of the suffering and despair of the Jewish people," the little boy said. "But here you see us, Jewish 'cheder boys'--a sign of hope and promise. That hope has always been expressed in the words and song of Ani Maamin,--I believe."

Carrying candles, the six boys, each representing one million of six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, began to sing Ani Maamin. They blew the shofar and concluded with the prayer that all Jews be redeemed speedily, with Moshiach.

Moved to tears by the emotional presentation, Mr. Wiesel spoke of his profound admiration and love for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the inspiration behind all the activities in Lyons. With stirring nostalgia, he then began to sing Ani Maamin to the tune of an old Chasidic melody.

Rabbi Shmuel Gurevitch, the energetic administrator of Beth Menachem, speaks of the school he and his wife Sara established in 1982. Accredited by the Board of Education, the school follows the Montessori method in the secular department. "Our faculty understands that Beth Menachem must subscribe to the highest standards of academic, religious and moral values--not only if we are to maintain state accreditation, but especially because the school bears the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe." Mrs. Gurevitch, principal of Beth Menachem, works closely with the teachers and parents of the school's 250 students seeing to it that the values and traditions taught at the school are encouraged at home and in the community. "We've worked hard to create an open atmosphere in the school," explains Mrs. Gurevitch. "All of our teachers appreciate what the school stands for, and the non-Jewish members of our faculty have tremendous respect for what we are trying to accomplish."

The school is but one of the many projects the Gurevitches have brought to Lyons. The Chabad House, on Rue Passage Cazenove in the heart of Lyons' 6th district, is always alive with activity. Rabbi Gurevitch, himself a native of France and the son of the Lubavitch representative in Yerres, teaches Talmud and Chasidic philosophy to 25-30 physicians, businessmen and students each evening. On Tuesday evening, Mrs. Gurevitch leads a popular Torah study class for some 50 women.

"I feel very strongly about educating women, allowing them to discover, in a variety of ways, the richness of our tradition," says Mrs. Gurevitch. Tapping into local talent, she produces entertainment programs that provoke thought and interest in the Jewish feminine experience.

In 1992, with the help and involvement of women in fashion and theater, Mrs. Gurevitch staged a fashion show. The theme: "The Jewish woman and her mitzvot from biblical to modern times." With costumes reflecting authentic period dress, Jewish models and actresses--each representing one of the three mitzvot particular to the woman and that mitzva's fulfillment throughout history, strolled down the runway. The evening, attended by hundreds of women including Madame Michel Moir, the wife of Lyon's mayor, received a standing ovation. This year's major production was a "Couples Fair" on Jewish marriage which explored the various traditions of Jewish marriage.

In 1976, when Chabad-Lubavitch was first introduced to Lyons, Jewish services were severely lacking. Today there are six mikvaot, five kosher supermarkets and four kosher restaurants.

With a Jewish population of about 35,000, Lyons' Jewish community has a diversity of educational and social needs. The Gurevitchs believe that Chabad-Lubavitch has the answer to those needs. It is up to them, they feel, to open the way to a promising and fulfilling Jewish experience for the Jews of their city.

Baila Olidort is the editor of Wellsprings Magazine and of Lubavitch International. Reprinted with permission from Lubavitch International

What's New

TO KNOW AND TO CARE

To Know and To Care is a collection of contemporary Chasidic stories about the Rebbe. The stories contained in this book reveal a multidimensional picture of the Rebbe's leadership, showing many different perpectives of his personality. In contrast to a biography which represents a cold intellectual perspective on a person's life, in stories, his responses to the people and the circumstance he encounters breathe with vitality. Available at Jewish book stores or from the publisher, Sichos In English by sending $15 to SIE, 788 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213.

TEL AVIV U. STUDENTS AT KFAR CHABAD

Fifty students from Tel Aviv University recently attended a seminar in Kfar Chabad organized by the campus' Chabad House director, Rabbi Fishel Jacobs. One of the goals of the seminar, whose theme was Jewish Contemporary Law, was to counter stereotypes students have about Chabad and Chasidic life. Rabbi Jacobs himself leaves little room for stereotypes with his black belt in Karate and his "dynamite" classes on Chasidic philosophy.


The Rebbe Writes

5 Tevet, 5736 (1976)

In reply to your inquiry and request for instructions in connection with the forthcoming Fast of Asara b'Tevet (10th of Tevet), in view of the situation in and around Israel---

You will surely be instructed by the rabbi of your congregation, however, since you have also approached me in this matter, I will set forth, at least, several suggestions--after the following introductory remarks:

Regrettably, there are people who claim that it is necessary to think and act "big," in terms of global dimensions and stupendous undertakings, etc. Surely they mean well; and to the extent that such resolutions are practical and are actually carried out--they are very helpful in improving the situation.

Yet, we must never overlook--indeed, rather greatly emphasize--the so-called "small and unsophisticated" things which each modest congregation, moreover each individual, can and must do--beginning with the old, yet ever-new, Jewish way, collectively as one people and also as individuals. This is the action of "the voice is the voice of Jacob"--Torah and prayer--which G-d Himself has shown us to be the first effective action to nullify the power of "the hands of Esau"--in whatever shape or form they are raised against us.

Certainly this should find the fullest expression in a day which the Shulchan Aruch declares to be a day of fasting, one to which the prophet Isaiah refers as a "chosen fast...a fast and time favored by G-d."

Now, in answer to your inquiry, and since the Fast of Asara b'Tevet is specially connected with the Holy Land and the Holy City of Jerusalem (recalling the siege of Jerusalem), my suggestion --in addition to the regular "observances" on fast days, as set forth at length and in detail in Poskim [halachic adjudicators] and in books of Mussar and Chasidut--is as follows:

During this day--expressly for the sake (zechut) of the security and strengthening of the Holy Land, materially and spiritually, and for the material and spiritual benefit of all Jews wherever they are--in the Holy Land as well as in the Diaspora--and particularly for the benefit of our brethren behind the "Iron Curtain"--a special effort should be made in the spirit of "Old Israel"--in the areas of Torah, tefila, and tzedaka.

Especially after davening (both in the morning and at Mincha) one should learn (and where there already are daily study groups, to add) a subject in Torah, including halacha pesuka (final ruling). Immediately following the davening, even before learning, one should say several chapters of Tehillim [Psalms] (in addition to the regular portion).

Before and after davening--one should give tzedaka (in addition to the regular donation), including tzedaka for a sacred cause or institution in the Holy Land, the "Land of Living."

Needless to say, one who repeats the above again and again in the course of the day is to be praised.

And the more one does it (in quantity and quality), the more praiseworthy it is.

And, as in all matters of holiness, it is desirable that all the above be done b'tzibbur (with at least a minyan).

May G-d accept, and He will accept, the prayers and supplications of Jews wherever they are.

And soon, in our very own days, may the Promise be fulfilled that "These days will be transformed into days of rejoicing and gladness," with the true and complete Redemption through our righteous Moshiach.


Rambam this week


A Word from the Director

The Rebbe speaking with Mr. and Mrs. Herling, Counted among the dedicated friends of the Lubavitch Youth Organization are Mr. Erwin Herling and Countess Madeline Herling, who have been privileged to meet with the Rebbe numerous times. Mr. Herling, a devoted reader of L'Chaim, wrote the following poem which we would like to share with our readers.
A MIRACLE

Today the winter's begun. It is snowing,
The children have fun
They play with snow and snowballs they throw.
How happy they are, what a wonderful show!
Only that one little beautiful girl,
Pale is her face, like from the south sea a pearl
Near the old well we found.
All by herself, just touching the ground.
Touching to feel, what others can see.
Just for a short moment happy to be.
For really happy, she has never been.
Snow so white in the winter, she has never seen.
Joy in her life, she could never find.
Only deep darkness, because she was blind.
It's heavily snowing, we catch a snowflake
and the well looks so white and round like a cake.
We catch more snowflakes, three, four or five.
Somehow with a message so full of life,
A message of love, a message of peace,
and all is so calm, our heart is at ease.
The blind little girl, has found now her way
To sit near the well, and in loud voice to pray.
"Dear G-d, why Me? Please bring to me light,
Stop now the darkness, the forever night.
Dear G-d, just for once, the snow let me see.
Oh, dear G-d, why me. Why must it be me?"
As she was moving near to the well,
she made a wrong step and inside she fell.
The well was so deep, she was laying below.
But she was not hurt, she fell on the snow.
And then she looked up, she was not in fear
She was not frightened, did drop just a tear.
The children were seeing her down in the well,
Standing up tall and starting to yell.
A miracle happened, dear G-d, I can see
I thank you, I thank you, you did it for me.
Gone is forever the darkness, the night!
It keeps on snowing, so beautifully white.


Thoughts that Count

Until Shiloh comes (Gen. 49:10)

Rashi comments that the above words refer to Moshiach. In addition, the Baal HaTurim points out that the Hebrew words meaning "Shiloh comes" have the same numerical value as the word "Moshiach." The word "comes" (yavo) contains a profound allusion to the means by which Moshiach can be brought. For yavo is numerically equivalent to the word echad--one. When there will be unity among Jews, and in particular, when Jews will unite in speaking about Moshiach, they will succeed in drawing down and realizing the ultimate Redemption through the Righteous Moshiach.

(The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Benjamin shall be a wolf that rends (Gen. 49:27)

The task of Benjamin, referred to as ben-acher--"another son"--in the Torah, is to elevate the "other," the animal soul of man, until it is in the category of a "son" of G-d. For this reason Benjamin is likened to the wolf, which rips into its prey and rends it into pieces.

(Ohr Hatorah)

G-d will surely remember you (Gen. 50:25)

When Joseph told the Jews that the time for their redemption was near, he gave them a sign by which they would recognize their redeemer. "G-d will surely remember you (pakod yifkod)," he said, doubling the verb "to remember" for added emphasis. For true redemption must free both body and soul, liberating the Jews from physical and spiritual enslavement. Physical freedom alone is not enough; even return to the Holy Land is insufficient without the spiritual component which signifies true redemption. So it was in Egypt, and so is it today...

(Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin)


It Once Happened

The era of the First Holy Temple was replete with both the greatest wonders and the greatest temptations. Although miracles were daily occurrences, the people succumbed to the temptation of idol worship which prevailed among the nations of the world at that time. Destruction came upon the Jewish nation slowly, and though the prophets begged the people to return from their sinful practices, it was to no avail.

In the year 3228 (533 b.c.e.), Menashe, the evil son of the righteous King Chizkiyahu, rose to the throne of Judea. Through his insidious influence idol worship spread through the land. The next half century saw the great struggle between the arch-rivals Babylonia and Egypt encroach into the Jewish kingdom, as Judea became a vassal king of King Nebuchadnezar.

The year 434 b.c.e. saw the first wave of exiles, the elite of Jerusalem, leave for Babylonia. These men included the greatest leaders and scholars of the time: Mordechai, Daniel and Ezekiel, men who would be instrumental in bringing about great miracles in the future. Only the poor were left in the land, and the future clearly pointed to the exiled community which was to grow and flourish in Babylonia.

Eight years later, the end came as the forces of the Babylonian commander besieged Jerusalem and battered its defences. The Holy Temple, the king's palace, as well as the rest of the city was burned and laid waste. The remaining leaders were executed and the people forced into exile under torturous conditions.

Although the destruction had been bloody and crushing, the Jewish exiles in Babylonia gradually rebuilt their lives and communities. The Babylonian rulers permitted the Jews considerable independence to reconstruct Jewish life in the new environment. The adjustment was made easier by the fact that the earlier exiles were now well established.

The exiles thought that their stay in Babylon would be a short one. They waited and longed for the day on which they would return to the Holy Land. However, it was decreed differently: The prophet Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) told them that it was decreed in Heaven that they must remain in Babylon. "Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat their fruit...Increase there...Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to G-d for her, because through her peace, you will have peace."

And so, the exiled Jews settled down in Babylon. But how could they retain their Jewishness in a foreign land, bereft of the Holy Temple and its Divine service, and surrounded as they were by idol worshippers? The guidance of the Sages of the time set the pattern for Jewish life for all coming generations by establishing the foundations of Torah study, assuring the continuation of the Jewish people both in and out of exile.

One of the early exiled Jews mentioned above was Daniel. Together with three companions, the fifteen-year-old Daniel was amongst those chosen to attend the king in the royal palace. True to their upbringing, Daniel and his friends resisted the temptations of the royal lifestyle. Refusing to partake of non-kosher food, they were given beans and water, but in spite of this meager diet, they remained robust. The wisdom of the Jewish youths attracted attention, and Daniel and his companions were appointed to high positions in the royal court. Nebuchadnezzar had reached the pinnacle of his power, but he began to worry about the future.

One of the most remarkable episodes in the life of Daniel occurred when the king had a terrifying dream. When he awoke, the king was unable to remember the dream that had so frightened him. His terror and anxiety mounted, and he summoned his advisors, and ordered them to reveal to him both the dream and its meaning. But even under the threat of death, they couldn't explain a dream which the king himself couldn't recall.

Then, the king called upon Daniel. In response to his prayers, G-d enabled Daniel to describe and interpret the dream. His explanation was as follows: The king saw in his dream a towering statue whose head was made of gold. The golden head represented Nebuchadnezzer, the ruler of the known world at the time. The chest and arms were silver, which symbolized Persia and Media, weaker kingdoms, which would, nevertheless, replace Babylon. The thighs of the statue were copper, representing Greece, the third and weaker empire in the chain. Its legs were of iron, this symbolic of the cruel rule of Rome, the fourth empire. The statue's toes were partly iron and partly earthenware. This represented the two kingdoms which would follow Rome: the Holy Roman Empire and the Moslem rule and the many smaller kingdom's which would result from their fragmentation. As the dream continued, a small stone rolled toward the figure and smashed it. Then, the small stone grew into a huge mountain. This small stone represented the King Moshiach, who would overthrow these kingdoms and rule in the end.

The king accepted Daniel's interpretation and raised him to even higher rank. A succeeding king, Belshazzar was to have another, even more astonishing need for Daniel's interpretive powers when Hebrew words mysteriously appeared on the wall of his palace during a drinking orgy. He interpreted those words correctly, as well, predicting the demise of his kingdom, which occurred that same night.


Moshiach Matters

The Talmud explains that G-d grants reward "measure for measure." It thus follows that to merit that the revelations of the Era of the Redemption be internalized within the world itself, our divine service cannot be "above the world," but rather must be integrated within the day to day realities in which we live.

(From Dawn to Daylight by Rabbi E. Touger)


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