Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | A Call To Action | The Rebbe Writes
What's New | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count | It Once Happened
The sounds of birds chirping in the morning and children playing outside in the afternoon sun is a sure sign that spring has arrived. This pleasant season brings with it the inevitable chore of spring cleaning.
Some Jews associate spring cleaning with cleaning for Passover. While others, concerning Passover cleaning, state emphatically, "All I have to do is get rid of the chametz (leavened products). I don't need to wash my Venetian blinds and wax my floors!"
It is true that cleaning for Passover doesn't have to include major spring cleaning. Though for some of us, the smells of Murphy's Oil Soap or Lestoil are just as bound up with Passover as say, matza ball soup and horseradish.
But, whichever way you do it, the cleaning itself -- getting down on hands and knees or climbing up on top of ladders -- is closely tied to the theme of the Passover holiday itself.
According to Chasidic philosophy, bread and chametz symbolize the egotism and haughtiness within each of us. Chametz puffs up like a haughty person's chest, swells like an egotistical person's head. Matza, on the other hand, is flat, low, humble. Even the fact that its flavor is bland, nearly tasteless, attests to its modesty.
Before Passover, when we are checking cracks and corners, looking behind bookcases and inside briefcases for chametz, we are laboring at a job that doesn't require much thought. That gives us plenty of time to be introspective about whether we've been behaving like chametz or matza for the past year. And if we find that we are full of chametz, then pre-Passover cleaning time is the perfect opportunity to check the cracks and corners of our own personalities and dig out these dreadful traits.
There are probably some people out there who can manage to do all the introspection necessary while doing just Passover cleaning and not spring cleaning. But, more likely than not, most of us need to do a bit of spring cleaning in order to make sure that our homes, and ourselves, are truly clean and ready for Passover.
One final thought on Passover cleaning! Throughout the year, we somehow get by without this all-encompassing super-thorough cleaning. If there are guests coming there's always a closet or junk drawer to throw everything into at the last minute. And who out there hasn't read one of those articles giving tips about what to do if guests are coming in five minutes flat (freshen up the bathroom, clear off the dining room table, make the beds)?
But that's not good enough for Passover. For Passover we have to really get down to the nitty-gritty. There's no hiding when it comes to Passover.
Passover is the holiday when we celebrate and relive the Redemption of the Jewish people from our first exile in Egypt. That first Redemption is the prototype of all future Redemptions, including the final Redemption that we all await so eagerly.
As we clean for Passover this year, ridding our homes and ourselves of chametz/ego, let's get ready for the greatest guest of all, Moshiach. We've had a lot longer than five minutes flat to prepare for him and plenty of advance notice, so let's make sure we don't get stuck throwing things in junk drawers or clearing off the table at the last moment.
In the beginning of this week's portion, Tazria, the Torah states: "If a woman conceived seed, and bore a male child."
According to the Ohr HaChaim commentary, this verse alludes to the Jewish people and their Final Redemption with Moshiach.
"A woman" is symbolic of the Congregation of Israel; "conceived seed" alludes to the Jews' service of mitzvot and good deeds; "and bore a male child" refers to the ultimate result of this process -- the birth of the Messianic Era.
The Final Redemption is referred to as "male" as an expression of its strength, for after Moshiach redeems the world there will be no possibility of further exiles, and the Messianic age will last forever.
This same concept is expressed in a Midrashic reference to the tenth and final song that will be sung by the Jewish people with Moshiach. The tenth song is called "shir," the masculine form, whereas the nine songs that have already been sung are termed "shira," the feminine form.
In order to understand why the Jewish nation is symbolically a woman we need to examine the Hebrew word for woman.
Eve was called "isha" ("woman") "because out of man ('ish') was this one taken." The word "isha" therefore expresses the woman's relationship with her husband, and reflects her innate desire to reunite with him.
Similarly, in the spiritual sense, G-d is "male," whereas the Jewish people is "female." Just as Eve was created from Adam, so too is every Jew's soul "taken" from within G-d himself, being a "veritable piece of G-d Above."
Accordingly, every Jew's innate desire is to reunite with G-d, the source of his being. Material wealth and physical pleasures can never satisfy the Jew's longing for G-d; neither can spiritual delights totally satiate this yearning. Consciously or not, throughout his life the Jew seeks this union with G-d; it is the driving force of his existence.
To continue the metaphor of the "seed," this innate desire to unite with G-d must be sown precisely in the ground, finding expression in practical mitzva observance.
A seed planted in the air will never sprout; good intentions and positive feelings toward Judaism alone will never yield the desired results. Only through actual Torah study and the observance of mitzvot does the Jew cultivate the "seed" and allow it to grow.
Of course, the underlying objective of the Jew's service in the world is its ultimate "germination" -- the Messianic Era.
Translating one's positive feelings into action -- doing one more mitzva, performing one more good deed for a fellow Jew -- is what will bring the revelation of Moshiach and the redemption of the entire world.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 1
by Esther Altmann
Several months ago an unknown Israeli family blazed into the international headlines in the most tragic manner. Nachshon (may G-d avenge his blood), their eighteen-year-old soldier son, had been kidnapped by Arab terrorists and was being held prisoner in a secret location.
As their faces grew familiar to the Israeli public, the Wachsman family was seen as a living example of Torah, steadfastly proclaiming their faith in G-d Who rules the world according to His unfathomable ways.
The Wachsmans' appeal to Jews in Israel and all over the world to pray for the safe return of their son elicited an unprecedented response. Jews of all types, all national origins, and levels of observance rallied to their side in a show of love and unity that was not only inspiring, but indicative of the tremendous potential which exists within the Jewish people.
Mrs. Esther Wachsman had asked all women to light Shabbat candles and to beseech G-d to save their young son. Tragically, it was not to be. Nachshon Wachsman was brutally tortured and then murdered by his Arab captors.
A miracle, however, did occur. It was not the one we all prayed for, but it was a miracle, nonetheless.
During the days of the Wachsmans' agony Jews who had never prayed in their lives, who had never lit Shabbat candles, performed these mitzvot and lifted their eyes to G-d.
"They forgot about everything else, because they loved this young soldier like their own son, their own brother. They forgot about business, about their health, about their personal problems," said Mr. Wachsman.
"The spiritual level of the Jews was very lofty during those days. We reached a level where we perceived from the depths of our souls the inviolable unity of the Jewish people."
When that Shabbat ended, the Wachsmans were informed that the mission to free their son had failed. During the week of mourning, thousands of people came to share in their sorrow. But it was more than the extent of the terrible tragedy that consumed the interest of the media and public alike. What fascinated the Israelis, was the unexpected reaction of the Wachsmans to their excruciating loss.
Before the eyes of a nation, a parent's worse nightmare became reality. And yet the Wachsman family did not crumble or collapse under the weight of the unbearable, and the press and the people wanted to know: "Why not?" On national television Mr. Wachsman proclaimed his explanation: "I have Torah. I have faith in Hashem."
Yehuda Wachsman was born in Rumania and came to Israel as a young child. Growing up in a Communist country, he never had the opportunity to learn about Judaism. It was only at the age of 11, when he came to Israel and began to study at the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, that he was introduced to the basics of the Jewish faith.
In Kfar Chabad he "learned about G-d Who created the world and gave us a guidebook to live in this world. That," continued Wachsman, "is what gave me the strength to cope with the tragedy."
Wachsman explained that over the past almost fifty years since Israel came into being, the Jewish people has asked G-d for many things, and they were granted. We wanted a state, and it was created; we prayed for victory over our enemies, and we were victorious; in 1967 we feared that Israel would be destroyed, and we experienced a great miracle. But not always does G-d say 'yes' to our requests.
The Wachsman family has received 14,000 letters from people expressing their sorrow and sharing their pain. "The telephone rings all the time, even today. People ask, 'How are you?' 'What can we do for you?'" Requests pour in for Mr. Wachsman to speak to groups all over Israel. Even anti-religious kibbutzim are interested in hearing him. One large kibbutz inquired about affixing mezuzot to all their doors -- amounting to thousands of mezuzot (and thousands of dollars). "This came from people who always believed that a mezuza is of no value," commented Wachsman.
Wachsman explained that his family's tragedy brought about in the minds of many Israelis a change in their thinking, a break in the barrier that was erected by their secular education which taught them to despise religion.
Mr. Wachsman discussed the Book of Job, the story of a righteous man, who for no apparent reason was singled out for the harshest punishments by G-d. He lost his wealth, his children, and even his health. Why, he wondered, has all this befallen me? After all, I am doing all the things G-d wants me to do. I have kept my part of the bargain; why hasn't G-d kept His part? Doesn't G-d uphold His end of a deal? Job wondered. Mr. Wachsman explained, "One cannot make a bargain with the Creator of the Universe, for His ways are unknown and unknowable to us."
The martyrdom of Nachshon Wachsman has brought about a quiet revolution amongst a segment of Israelis. It caused them to take a look into their souls. There they found that "pintele Yid," the eternal spark which binds every Jew to G-d and to every other Jew, the mystical core of every Jewish soul which is an invincible flame that can never be extinguished or obliterated.
Sell Your Chometz
According to Jewish law, not only is one not allowed to see chometz -- leavened products on Passover, one is not even allowed to possess chometz. By way of a legally binding contract instituted by our Sages, one is able to sell one's chometz to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover. Following is a "contract form" for you to fill in and give to your Local Observant Rabbi
DELEGATION OF POWER OR SALE OF CHAMETZ
I, the undersigned, fully empower and permit Rabbi ____________ to act in my place and stead, and on my behalf to sell all Chametz possessed by me, knowingly or unknowingly as defined by the Torah and Rabbinic Law (e.g. Chametz, possible Chametz, and all kinds of Chametz mixtures).
Also Chametz that tends to harden and adhere to inside surfaces of pans, pots, or cooking utensils, the utensils themselves, and all kinds of live animals and pets that have been eating Chametz and mixtures thereof.
Rabbi ________________ is also empowered to lease all places wherein the Chametz owned by me may be found, particularly at the the address/es listed below, and elsewhere.
Rabbi __________________ has full right to appoint any agent or substitute in his stead and said substitute shall have full right to sell and lease as provided herein.
Rabbi _________________ also has the full power and right to act as he deems fit and proper in accordance with all the details of the Bill of Sale used in the transaction to sell all my Chametz, Chametz mixtures, etc., as provided herein.
This power is in conformity will all Torah, Rabbinic and Civil laws.
Signed: _______________________________________ Date: _________
City/ State/ Zip Country:__________________________________
A free translation of a letter of the Rebbe
Rosh Chodesh Nisan, 5737 (1977)
Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the first day of the month of redemption, occurs on the same day of the week as the first day of Passover, two weeks later. It is the day when the Jews in Egypt were informed of the imminent departure and redemption from Egypt (on the 15th of the month), and thereupon received the mitzvot of the Passover Sacrifice, the matza and maror, and all other directives and details pertaining to the redemption from Egypt.
Torah designated the day of Rosh Chodesh Nisan as the "New Year for Kings and Festivals."
This designation also suggests a connection with the fact that in this month the Jews were reborn as a nation and were ordained and promised by G-d to be a "Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation." Thus, royalty and holiness were linked together: Every Jew would be both a "priest" and a "royal servant" in the service of the Supreme King, by carrying out His commandments, (and "a royal servant is also royalty"), and infusing holiness into the secular world.
The Prophet Ezekiel compares the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt to the birth of a child, in that the bodily and spiritual liberation from Egypt, and their development thereafter, parallels the birth of a child, whereupon it immediately begins its physical development, which lays the foundation for its entire life.
The birth of the Jewish nation was accompanied by extraordinary difficulties, inasmuch as Egypt was at that time the mightiest and most advanced country in terms of power, science, etc., yet, also the most depraved in terms of morality and religion.
After centuries of physical and spiritual enslavement in Egypt, the Jews had to undergo a complete transformation -- and in quite a short period of time -- and to move to the other extreme, in order to be ready and worthy to receive the Torah at Sinai.
There they would attain the highest level both in the realm of religion -- the belief in One G-d (pure Monotheism) -- as well as in relation to man, as expressed in the Ten Commandments, and all this to be implemented in the actual everyday life and conduct.
Yet, despite the extraordinary difficulties, the Jewish people succeeded in making the radical transition from abject slavery to sublime freedom. This they achieved by virtue of the fact that, while still in Egypt, they took a stance of "an upraised arm" in their resolute determination to carry out all the Divine imperatives pertaining to the Passover sacrifice.
This sacrifice called for public renunciation -- at grave peril to their lives -- of the idolatry of Egypt, which they did, after renewing their Eternal Covenant with G-d through circumcision, sealed in the flesh, thus sanctifying also the body to the service of G-d.
Thus, the birth of the Jewish nation was coupled with the highest degree of liberation and independence -- while still in Egypt -- both spiritually and physically.
One of the basic teachings and instructions that follow from the above is that what is true of the birth of the Jewish nation as a whole is also true of the birth of every Jewish child.
Jewish parents should realize that the upbringing of a Jewish child begins from the moment that the child is born. They must immediately begin preparing the child to be a rightful member of the "Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation."
Notwithstanding the fact that life in this world is replete with difficulties -- though many of them are only imaginary -- it is certain that when parents take the stance of "an upraised arm" in providing a Torah-true education for their children, they are bound to succeed, just as our ancestors in Egypt succeeded; all the more so since the road has already been paved.
Moreover: it is stated, "Every day a Jew should see himself as if he was liberated from Egypt."
Every Jewish man and woman, including parents and adults in general, must devote themselves also to their own education in Torah and mitzvot -- and here, too, there is the assurance, "Make the effort, and you will succeed."
May G-d grant that every Jew exert himself (or herself) in all the above, in a manner of "an upraised arm," and this should bring closer the fulfillment of the promise, "Exalted will be the glory of the righteous (tzadik)," referring to all Jews, as it is written, "Your people are all tzadikim."
And also the fulfillment of the promise, "As in the days of your going out of Egypt, I will show you wonders" -- with the true and complete Redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
NEW IN UKRAINE
Two new emissaries of the Rebbe have arrived in Ukraine to help bolster Jewish outreach activities there. Rabbi Avraham and Chaya Miriam Wolf are settling in Cherson where they will be working with Jews of all ages both there and surrounding areas. Rabbi Shlomo and Esther Wilhelm will be working at the Chabad-Lubavitch Center in Zhitomir.
Eight winners of Tzivos Hashem's Torah Contest with participants from throughout Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine, were awarded a trip to America. The contest, which included 8,000 boys and girls age 8 - 13 provided an opportunity for the children to study basic Judaism. The winners had an exciting and educational adventure during their stay in America.
Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva had an alumnae retreat recently in Crown Heights with women from around the globe attending the five-day gathering. Workshops, lectures, entertainment and a gala banquet were some of the components of the retreat which brought women together who have studied at Machon Chana over the past 20 years.
Machon Chana -- one of the first yeshivot established for women who were starting their Jewish education later in life -- boasts many emissaries of the Rebbe among its graduates. For more information about Machon Chana call (718) 735-0217.
This Shabbat is unique as reflected by the fact that three Torah scrolls are taken out for the Torah reading; we read the weekly Torah portion of Tazria from one scroll, the Rosh Chodesh reading from another scroll, and the special Parshat HaChodesh reading from a third scroll.
The Rebbe spoke about this phenomenon three years ago when the exact same situation occurred. At that time he explained that this is a very rare phenomenon. There are many occasions when two Torah scrolls are taken out, but taking out three scrolls is extremely uncommon.
The lesson to be learned from taking out a Torah scroll is reflected in the prayers recited at that time which begin, "Whenever the ark set out, Moshe would say, 'Arise, O G-d, and Your enemies will be dispersed; Your foes will flee before You.'"
This verse is relevant to every Jew, even in the present era when the ark is entombed. Every Jew possesses a spark of Moshe within his soul. This spark brings about a increase in the service of holiness and the nullification of undesirable influences. Thus, taking out the Torah scrolls reflects both the services of "turn away from evil" and "do good," the two prongs of our service of G-d, and endows that service with new strength and vigor.
Thus, taking out three Torah scrolls represents a chazaka -- a strengthening and reinforcement of the above concepts.
In particular, there are two types of chazakot:
- a chazaka that is necessary to maintain our everyday service of G-d. This is brought about by taking out three Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah.
- a chazaka that is intended to endow the Jewish people with new and additional powers. This comes about only at special times among them our present circumstances.
May the chazaka established by taking out three Torah scrolls lead to our service in the Third Holy Temple, where "we will partake of the Passover sacrifices and the festive offerings... and give thanks to You with a new song for our Redemption and for the deliverance of our souls."
If a man shall have in the skin of his flesh an eruption, a scab or a bright spot (Lev. 13:2)
Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: Afflictions are the consequence of seven sins: gossip, bloodshed, an oath taken in vain, sexual transgressions, overbearing pride, theft and envy.
And it might become in the skin of his flesh the plague of leprosy: then shall he be brought to Aaron the priest (Lev. 13:2)
The Mishna (Negaim) states: "A person can see all afflictions except for his own...or those of his relatives." It's very easy to find fault in others; much more difficult to recognize one's own deficiencies.
(Ma'ayana Shel Torah)
And on the eighth day shall he be circumcised (Lev. 12:3)
At a brit milah it is customary to bless the newborn with the phrase, "Just as he has entered the Covenant ("brit"), so too may he enter the fold of Torah and good deeds."
Just as circumcision is a mitzva from which a person can never part, so too may the child spend his lifetime intimately connected to Torah and mitzvot.
[When] the priest will see him, he will pronounce him unclean (Lev. 13:3)
The Shpoler Zaide was known as one of the must enthusiastic and spirited disciples of the Magid of Mezeritch. In the year 1799, during a visit to the Alter Rebbe, he related that he had merited to see the Baal Shem Tov when he was three years old.
"The Baal Shem Tov placed his holy hand over my heart, and ever since I've been warm," he explained.
From this we learn that the gaze of a tzadik ("the priest shall see him"), the sound of his voice, or in fact any gesture he makes, has far-reaching influence and effect on an individual.
During the rule of the evil Romans the Sage Rabbi Eliezer ben Parta was arrested by the authorities and charged with committing five crimes. He was taken to appear before the Roman court and questioned.
"Why did you study the Torah and why did you rob?" He replied, "If you work with the sword then you don't study the book and if you study the book you don't use the sword. And if the first accusation is a lie, so is the second one."
They continued questioning him, asking, "Why are you called rabbi?" He replied to them, "I am a rabbi of the weavers." Wanting to test him, they had brought two skeins of weavers' thread and asked him, "Which is the warp and which is the weft?" Rabbi Eliezer had no idea, but a miracle happened for him. Two birds alighted on the thread, a male on the wept and a female on the warp. From this hint he understood how to answer his accusers.
The interrogation continued, and they asked him, "Why didn't you come to the temple of idolatry?" He replied to them, "I am an old man, and I was afraid I might be trampled."
The questioners scoffed at his excuse. "How many old men have you heard of being trampled?" they laughed. Just at that moment another miracle was performed for him, and word came to the court that an old man had just been trampled to death at one of the Roman temples.
As they continued trying to ensnare the sage they asked him, "Why did you free your slave in violation of our law?" He denied their accusation, saying that he had not done it.
One of those present stood to testify against him when Elijah the Prophet appeared in the form of one of the ministers and spoke, "Stop testifying against this man. Haven't you seen that miracles have continuously happened in his merit? It is likely that another miracle will occur now, and the only thing you will achieve by accusing him is to embarrass yourself and the court by your false accusations."
The man still wished to testify against Rabbi Eliezer. Now, this man was an important citizen and had been entrusted to deliver a letter to the Emperor in Rome. This letter had been signed by many high-placed officials, and it was a great honor and responsibility to be entrusted with its delivery.
At the appearance of Elijah, the man happened to remember the letter and suddenly, he realized that he had lost it. He was overcome with fear at the thought of not being able to carry out his important mission.
Panic-stricken, he dashed out of the court in search of the lost document, completely forgetting about his testimony. In this way, Elijah brought about a miracle and the testimony against the great sage was ended.
Rabbi Eliezer ben Parta left the Roman court in peace, a free man.
The disciples of the Baal Shem Tov (Besht) were all gathered in the House of Study. One of them voiced the unspoken desire of the others: "Please, Master, let us see Elijah." The Besht promised he would allow them.
Several days later, the Besht entered the study hall, looking for a certain book. Although he was sure it had been there, he was unable to locate it, and he asked one of his disciples about it.
He replied, "We were sitting here and a poor man came in and began studying from that very book. Later, we saw him get up and leave."
The Besht ordered his disciples to disperse through the streets and search for the old man. They ran outside, and within a few minutes they found him holding the book under his coat. "How do you dare steal a book! Where did you ever hear of such a chutzpa, and an old man, to boot!" they berated him.
Some men who were passing by heard the commotion and fell upon the old man beating him about the head and shoulders. Suddenly the Baal Shem Tov appeared and rescued him from their hands.
Once, the Besht and his disciples were attending a brit and a stranger was caught absconding with a silver spoon. When they caught him, they wanted to beat him, for they thought they recognized him as the old man who had tried to steal the book from the study hall some time before. This time, also, the Besht rescued him from their clutches.
A few days after the bris, the Besht and his disciples were walking in a meadow when they were suddenly approached by an armed soldier on horseback. He stopped before them and asked for a light for his pipe. After they had lit it, he turned to the Besht and said, "And you, Israel, how are you?"
"Thank G-d," he replied. The soldier descended from his horse, embraced the Besht, then mounted his horse again, and quickly sped away.
The disciples were amazed by this strange scenario and looked questioningly at their master. "This is the third time that Elijah the Prophet has appeared to you. The first time, in the guise of the book thief, the second time, at the bris and now, in the form of a soldier.
The disciples of the Besht were men of tremendous spiritual accomplishment, and yet, although they could perceive the prophet, they were not able to ascertain his true identity.
We have arrived at the time of Redemption, as it is stated, "For my deliverance is close at hand and the days until redemption are close."
Unlike the previous years where great toil was necessary, today, even a little can suffice... for the redemption is "waiting behind the door" as our Sages have already stated in their time, "All the deadlines have passed, it depends only upon our repentance."
How much more so does it apply today: Now is the time, as is well known.
(Chidushei Torah of the previous Satmar Rebbe)