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For as long as he could dream, man has yearned to fly, to tear free of the earth that claimed him as her own and soar to the heavenly heights.
When he learned that air, the element through which he waded and which extended miles above his head, had mass and weight, the realization opened the door for the invention of flying machines of two varieties.
He could construct an apparatus whose overall weight was less than the air it displaced, rising through the atmosphere as a log floats on the surface of the heavier water, or he could claw and slice his way through the air, manipulating it this way and that, riding it with a great diversity of aerodynamic forms and air - chewing machines.
And so man flew, higher, faster, devising ever more sophisticated ways of exploiting the air's resisting mass as a carrier and propeller. But this ploy had its limitations.
What happens when one climbs through the atmosphere, until one has climbed above it? When one has reached the point where there is no longer anything to defeat or transcend?
But man wanted more.
Having risen to the atmosphere's ceiling, he wished to rise higher yet, to the heavenly bodies beckoning across a sea of nothingness. But with nothing to overcome, how could he advance?
If the void of space would not offer any thing he could challenge, he would have to devise an implement that is its own challenge: the rocket.
The rocket is both challenger and challenged.
With the rocket, man thrusts forward by thrusting against himself, riding the recoil from his self-agitation to heights yet to be charted and defined.
"From everything a Jew sees or hears," said Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism, "he should derive a lesson regarding his service of the Creator."
The history of aviation and space exploration has much to instruct us in our quest to soar and explore the heights of the human soul. Internally, too, man yearns to rise above his "earth" and reach for the limitless skies, to transcend the mundane tedium of material life and touch the infinite, the eternal, the divine.
Man's internal quest for the heavens also has its "conventional" aircraft--engines of flight that scale the heights of achievement by overcoming and exploiting the challenges of life. These fall under two general categories: heavier-than-air aircraft, which directly engage with the resisting elements, and lighter-than-air aircraft, whose ethereal components naturally and effortlessly raise it above the heavier elements of its environment.
In other words, there are times when man struggles against the negativities of life on their own terms, and times when he rises above them by inculcating himself with a purer, finer vision and behavior. However, both of these "aviation" methods have in common the fact that ascent is possible only in an environment of resistance and adversity.
This is life as we know it--life in a world in which achievement is measured in terms of a wilderness tamed, a tyrant defeated, a disease cured. A world in which there is a Nobel Peace Prize only because there are wars; philanthropy only because there is hunger and want.
But we want more.
We want more than to defeat evil--we want to probe the infinite reaches of good. We want our lives to be "rockets" that continue to climb long after we have met our last negative challenge.
We want to ignite what is best in us, to achieve yet a higher degree of perfection.
By Yanki Tauber, reprinted with permission from The Week in Review.
Based on an address of the Rebbe given in 1968, a week after three NASA astronauts made the first manned departure from the earth's sphere of influence, conducting ten orbits of the moon.
"And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned," we read in this week's Torah portion, Vayeira.
"And Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him... and Sarah said...'Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would have nursed children?'"
Rashi, the great Torah commentator, explains the use of the plural "children": "On the day of the feast, many princesses brought their babies to Sarah, and she suckled them. For they did not believe that she had actually given birth to Isaac, insisting that he was a foundling they had brought home from the marketplace. By nursing other babies as well as her own, Sarah demonstrated that she had indeed given birth. And she nursed them all," Rashi emphasizes.
What are we to learn from this narrative?
If Sarah's intent had been only to prove that Isaac was her biological son, would it not have sufficed for her to nurse him alone? Why does Rashi stress that Sarah "nursed them all"?
In answer, one must look at the global picture, and understand a seemingly radical concept: the entire world was created solely for the purpose of the Jewish people.
After the founding of the Jewish nation and the giving of the Torah, [The Jewish People] Israel became the means through which all of mankind is affected; no commandment from G-d can be conveyed to the world except through the Torah and Jewish people.
It is for this reason that the Seven Noahide Laws must be obeyed solely because G-d has so commanded, and not because one finds them intellectually compelling.
The Jewish nation's existence as a people commenced with the supernatural birth of Isaac, at which point its influence in the world began to be felt. The miraculous birth of Isaac therefore marked the beginning of an era of miracles and abundance for all of mankind.
The most tangible symbol of this occurred when Sarah was able to physically provide milk for the multitude of children who were brought to her to suckle, confirming the centrality of the Jewish people as the key to G-d's blessing.
"Many barren women were able to conceive; many sick were healed on that day [in Sarah's merit]," Rashi adds. "Many prayers were answered, and there was much joy in the world."
When Sarah "nursed them all," she demonstrated to the nations of the world that the Jewish nation had indeed been chosen and elevated by G-d.
Similarly, when Moshiach comes, the exalted position of the Jewish people will be revealed and apparent to all, for it will be obvious that the nations of the world receive their blessings solely in the merit of the Jewish people.
Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe, Parshat Vayeira, 5750
Pearl Lebovic with her tambourines
by Jenny Park
Reprinted from the (New Jersey) Star Ledger
The Redemption is coming, Pearl Lebovic believes, and she is prepared for it.
Lebovic, an Orthodox Chasidic Jew, is getting other women excited about "a world of goodness" led by a great leader, the Messiah, by selling them tambourines. She has been doing it since mid- March as "a symbol of anticipation."
The Morristown, New Jersey, resident got the idea of the non- profit project from a California woman she met at the convention of Lubavitcher Women Emissaries in Brooklyn last February.
The idea of the tambourines came from the Bible: When the Jews left Egypt with the first redeemer, Moses, Miriam and the other women grabbed their tambourines.
Because they were so confident that G-d would perform miracles for the Jews, they unhesitantly headed out to the barren and dangerous wilderness and played music and dance for the coming of the complete redemption.
"Women are usually more ready to acknowledge an event before it happens," Lebovic said. "It's easier for them to trust their feelings, while men must see it first."
Shoshana Isenberg was familiar with the Bible story as well.
The Morristown resident said she had wanted to buy a tambourine for some time and finally did so two months ago at the urging of her two daughters.
"My kids were seeing that everyone was getting ready for the Moshiach (Messiah)," she said, adding that decorating tambourines is often a family project.
The instrument has become a symbol for Jewish women's trust in the Lubavitcher Rebbe's prophecy that the time for a perfect world is near.
Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the leader of the Lubavitcher sect of Jews, died June 12, but "his spirit is still guiding us," Lebovic said.
Before he died, "he was leading the world to Messianic Redemption," she said. "We're confident it's going to happen. It's imminent.
"Until he (the Messiah) comes, we must do two things: Learn all about the Redemption from various traditional sources and do what we can to make a better world."
However, she could not give a date for when the Redemption would come or name the person who would bring it. "As to what will happen when, we will see," she said.
The instruments need not be used at any time in relation to the Redemption, Lebovic said. "It's not a religious duty to shake them," she explained. Some people just hang the tambourines up, using them as ornaments for their homes.
Lebovic employs four artists to decorate the instruments and has plain ones that people can decorate themselves.
So far, 3,000 undecorated and about 50 decorated instruments have been sold. Lebovic first purchased tambourines as gifts and now buys them in bulk from a wholesaler.
Through word of mouth, they are sold to individuals and women's groups and brought to fairs.
Translated from Hebrew, the legend on the tambourines reads either "Welcome King Messiah" or "Long Live the King Messiah."
One version features a crown, Sabbath candles and prayer boxes called phylacteries. The second one shows the Temple in Jerusalem rebuilt by the Messiah. Both designs are decorated with acrylic paint, glitter pens, gems, ribbons and silk flowers.
The tambourines are shipped to New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Florida and even Russia, Lebovic said.
Selling tambourines is only a hobby for this mother of six, who with her husband, Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic, runs the Likrat Shiduch Matchmaking Service, a non-profit organization that averages three or four engagements a month.
Study Maimonides' Mishne Torah
Book of Mitzvot (Sefer HaMitzvot)
In 5744 (1984) the Rebbe called for the daily study of Maimonides' Mishne Torah, thereby uniting all Jews in a study encompassing the entire Torah.
The Rebbe enjoined all men, women and children to participate, allowing for the study of three chapters daily, one chapter a day or Maimonides' simpler Sefer HaMitzvot.
To hear pre-recorded classes in the Mishne Torah or Sefer HaMitzvot call (718) 953-6100, or your Chabad-Lubavitch center for a local number.
The daily lesson is also accessible electronically on the Internet at the gopher site: lubavitch.chabad.org. For a study schedule send a #10 SASE to: Rambam Schedule, 1408 President St., Bklyn., NY 11213. Sefer HaMitzvot is available in English.
THE FIRST JEWISH CHILD
Translated from letters of the Rebbe
1st Day of the Week of Vayeira, 5730 (1969)
It is a Jewish custom to relate the events of the week to the weekly portion of the Torah, and thereby to derive true instruction from the Torah of Truth.
This week's Torah portion tells us of the birth and upbringing of the first Jewish boy, born of Jewish parents, namely Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, the first ancestors of our Jewish people.
The circumstances surrounding Isaac's birth were supernatural and miraculous. His brit (circumcision) took place when he was eight days old, and his upbringing was fraught with difficulties and trials.
Quite different was the case of Abraham's son Ishmael, whose birth was quite normal, and who was circumcised when he was thirteen years old, i.e. at a mature age.
Yet is was Isaac whom G-d chose to be Abraham's true heir, from whom the Jewish people would descend.
Thus, the Torah teaches us that when new generations are to be born who are to ensure Jewish continuity and future, the approach must not be based on natural considerations and human calculations, for Jewish existence is not dependent upon natural forces, but upon G-d's direct intervention and providence.
Similarly, the education and upbringing of Jewish children is not to be determined by the same considerations and criteria as in the non-Jewish world.
Jewish parents do not wait until the child becomes mature enough to determine his behavior and find his own way to Judaism. He is given the strongest and fullest possible measure of Jewish training from infancy.
Only in this way is it possible to ensure the "everlasting covenant" with G-d, to come through all difficulties and trials with strength, and endowed with G-d's blessings, materially and spiritually.
Fifth Day of the Torah Portion Vayeira, 5731 (1970)
This significant event, taking place on the day after the reading of the weekly Torah portion of Vayeira, is indeed related to the concluding highlights of the portion, namely, the birth and upbringing of the first Jewish child, Isaac, born of the first Jewish parents, Abraham and Sarah.
The Torah tells us that Abraham made a "great feast" (when Yitzchak was two years old), at which the leading dignitaries of the age were present (Rashi, quoting the Midrash).
Some of those who attended thought the celebration unrealistic, seeing no future for a single Jewish child, surrounded by a hostile world.
Yet G-d promised that this child would be the father of a great and holy nation; a nation which, though overwhelmingly outnumbered, would not only outlive its enemies, but would be a leader and a guiding light to the rest of mankind.
A hint to the fulfillment of the Divine promise is to be found in the passage immediately following the above narrative, in which the Torah tells us of Sarah's heartfelt concern for Isaac's upbringing and proper environment even at that early age.
Thus the Torah sets the pattern for Jewish education.
It teaches us that regardless of the odds, the future of the Jewish child, as of the Jewish people as a whole, is assured by Divine promise, provided the parents fulfill their responsibilities, even to the point of self-sacrifice, if necessary. Not least, it teaches us that in matters of Torah and holiness, even "a small beginning flourishes exceedingly in the end."
The Rebbe's Legacy
The Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is hosting a series of special Shabbaton weekends in which the extraordinary legacy of the Rebbe will be explored.
Part I: The Intellectual Dimension, will be Nov. 11-13. Featured speakers include Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Dr. Susan Handelman, and Rabbi Gershon Shusterman. For more info call (718) 953-1000.
NEW FACILITY FOR BLUE ASH
Chabad of Blue Ash, in a northeastern suburb of Cincinnati, OH, recently acquired a beautiful and spacious facility.
Under the directorship of Rabbi Yisroel and Chana Alta Mangel, the center has touched countless lives with programs such as holiday rallies, study groups, Shabbat encounters and hands-on Jewish experiences for children and adults. Activities will be expanded at the new facility. To contact the Center call (513) 793-5200.
RUMBO: A TU JUDAISMO
Rumbo, a beautiful, full-color bi-monthly magazine produced by Chabad of Venezuela recently celebrated its sixth birthday. ("Rumbo" means "The Way")
This coming week, on 20 Cheshvan (Oct. 25), we commemorate the birthday of Rabbi Sholom DovBer, the fifth Chabad Rebbe.
In the writings of the Previous Rebbe is an account of what the Mitteler Rebbe (the second Chabad Rebbe) said about the day on which a tzadik is born, and specifically about the day on which the leader of the generation--a "comprehensive soul" -- is born:
"He [the Mittler Rebbe] spoke of the festive meal which celebrates the occasion in the Garden of Eden. This spiritual repast consists of the sublime bliss which souls derive from the radiance of the Divine Presence, when they behold the essence of G-dliness. All the souls present take leave of the soul of the tzadik which is about to descend to the world, and offer it their blessings for success in realizing the ultimate purpose of its descent into a body.
"The nature of the festive meal which is held in honor of the comprehensive soul is quite different from that of an ordinary righteous person. Once the Heavenly Court has decreed that a particular comprehensive soul must descend to the world at a certain time and be born to specific parents, then some time before the body of the infant is formed, the Court assigns this soul a particular charge, and there it heads a heavenly academy. As it awaits its mission, this soul expounds the Torah to the souls of the righteous. With the approach of the time appointed for the soul to set out on its descent, the soul of Moses leads all the comprehensive souls who gather for the festive occasion. They give the embarking soul their blessings for success in its mission for the public welfare, and promise to aid it in its endeavors.
"The day destined for the birth of a tzadik (and, even more so, for the birth of a tzadik with a comprehensive soul) is thus a Yom Tov that is celebrated in all the supernal worlds...."
May we merit this year to celebrate Rabbi Sholom DovBer's birthday together with him and with all the great tzadikim of all generations led by Moshiach.
And G-d appeared to him. (Gen. 18:1)
When Rabbi Sholom DovBer (the fifth Chabad Rebbe) was four or five years old, he came to his grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, to receive a blessing on his birthday.
No sooner had he entered the room than the boy burst into tears. "Why are you crying?" the Rebbe asked his grandson.
"I learned in this week's Torah portion that G-d appeared to Abraham after he performed the mitzva of brit mila (circumcision). Why doesn't G-d appear to me too?" the young child wept in earnest.
The Tzemach Tzedek explained that when a tzadik, a righteous person, decides to circumcise himself at the age of 99, he is truly deserving of G-d's revelation!
From this story we learn the importance of educating our children in a true Torah way, till a fervent desire for holiness is developed and a sincere yearning for G-dliness is evinced.
Similarly, as we stand now on the threshold of the Messianic Era, our longing for the revelation of G-dliness in the world should be just as strong; we must also demand that G-d appear to us in His full glory with the Final Redemption.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Vayeira 5752)
And G-d appeared to him in the grove of Mamrei, as he was sitting at the door of the tent in the heat of the day (Gen. 18:1)
When Moshiach comes the entire world will bask in the revelation of the Divine Presence, which will cause an actual physical healing of the sick, just as G-d's appearance to Abraham healed his wound after his circumcision. "In the heat of the day" refers to the saying of our Sages that in the World to Come, "G-d will remove the sun (symbolic of G-d) from its sheath, and the righteous (every single Jew) will be healed [by its warmth]."
And when he saw them, he ran to meet them (Gen. 18:2)
"Receive every person with a cheerful countenance," declared Shammai, the great Torah Sage. Even if one bestows all the treasures in the world on another, if his face is angry, it is considered as if he gave him nothing. On the other hand, if a person greets his fellow in a friendly manner, even if he gives him nothing it is considered as if he gave him a great fortune.
G-d has made laughter for me; whoever hears it will laugh ("yitzchak") on my account (Gen. 21:6)
"Laughter" refers to the supreme delight that will be revealed to the righteous in the World to Come. The Hebrew name "Yitzchak" ("he will laugh") is in the future tense, alluding to the time when this will take place.
Once there was a husband and wife who lived together in a little village, one of the hundreds of little villages which peppered the countryside of Russia and Poland in the times of our grandparents, and great-grandparents and the dozens of generations which preceded them.
Like many such couples, they were very poor, subsisting from day to day by the work of their hands. And although life was hard, their eyes ever turned upward to their Father in Heaven, beseeching Him to remember them, and never to forsake them. Thus they lived for many years, in harmony, with peace and love reigning between them.
And although they thanked G-d every day for the goodness He bestowed upon them, they suffered from one great sorrow which cast its shadow over their placid lives--they had no children.
For this one thing they prayed every day.
On Shabbat and the holidays, when the wife would don her pure white kerchief, cover her eyes and bless the candles, she murmured a prayer begging G-d to grant her a child. And when the husband stood in silent prayer, he, too, would remind the Creator of his craving for a child.
After many years had passed, their greatest wish was granted, and the wife gave birth to a baby boy. Their joy and thankfulness were unbounded as they watched their little son grow.
The days and months passed by joyfully, until the day came when the child was ready to be weaned. The parents consulted each other as to how to embark on this new step.
They wanted to purchase the proper food for their precious child, but were unsure how kosher it would have to be to qualify as kosher enough for a child.
The couple was quite poor, and so, they decided that if it were kosher, but not exactly up to the very highest standards, it would certainly be good enough.
But then, the mother piped up and said, "You know, it isn't enough to decide between ourselves, for there is a third partner in the creation of a child -- G-d Himself takes part; without Him, no child enters this world.
Her husband agreed, and so they looked in the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, where it is written: It is preferable to feed the child food of the highest standard of kashrut.
The loving parents, wanting to do the very best for their son, bought the most kosher food available.
They also decided that it would be proper to consult the Third Partner each time they made a major decision in the child's upbringing.
Days and months passed and it was soon time to choose a teacher for the little boy. The parents wondered, where should they look for a proper teacher, one who would instill in their precious boy a love of learning and values which the Torah held dear.
They looked here and there, spoke to this melamed (teacher) and that, but when it came time to choose, they again decided to do what the Third Partner would wish, and they selected a fine G-d fearing young man, who they felt sure would lead their child on the path of righteousness.
The little boy grew and matured into a fine young man, but his parents still watched over him as carefully as before.
When the time arrived to choose a bride, they came upon a problem: the poor couple had no money to establish a home for their son. What could they do? Finally, the mother spoke up: "From the time of our son's birth, until now, we always did what G-d wanted, without any regard to cost. No matter what sacrifice it entailed, we went ahead, and we footed the whole bill. Now, it is time for the Third Partner to pay His share in the upbringing of our child."
The father agreed, and he went into the fields and prayed from the bottom of his heart. "G-d, You know that we always put Your will before our own in the rearing of the son You gave us. Now, we are unable to find our son a bride without Your help, and so we call upon You to join in the mitzva of bringing our son under the marriage canopy."
No sooner had he completed his prayer, when a pure gold coin miraculously descended from the Heavens, and the father knew that his prayer was accepted. The mother, the father and the Third Partner rejoiced at the wedding of the beloved son and his new bride.
The main goal in creating Adam was to bring forth King David and his descendants, the most important one being Moshiach.
This is hinted to in the acrostic for the Hebrew word "Adam": "alef" stands for Adam, "dalet" for David and "mem" for Moshiach. The principal purpose of creation was for the generation of Moshiach.
(Midbar Kodesh, the Belzer Rebbe)