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L'Chaim
April 19, 1996 - 30 Nissan 5756

414: Tazria-Metzora

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


  413: Shemini415: Achrei-Kedoshim  

Mountain Climbing and Moshiach  |  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  |  Moshiach Matters

Mountain Climbing and Moshiach

by Chana Weisberg

Whether you're climbing the Alps or the Rockies, the Himalayas or the Pyrennes, you need special gear and guts to make sure your climb will be successful.

A climber needs special clothing to protect himself from the harsh winds and blazing rays of the sun at the mountain's high altitudes. He also requires special equipment, such as mountain sticks, spike and rope, to assist him in his climb. Besides these special garments and equipment, the mountain climber also needs stamina and physical fitness.

These two groups of requirements for a mountain climber are analogous to the needs of our generation, the generation that will greet Moshiach.

The special garments are analogous to the garments of the soul, the faculties used by the soul to express itself. These faculties are the thought, speech and action of the individual which need refinement in preparation for Moshiach.

The stamina of the individual refers to the strength of the soul. In preparation for Moshiach's arrival, the influence of one's Divine soul must constantly permeate one's every action. The connection to physicality and pleasure seeking must be subordinated as he learns to focus on his spiritual powers.

Supposing, however, the climber finds himself on the mountain without any of the necessary garments and without the appropriate stamina. Does this individual stand a chance? His success is now solely dependent on the strength of his resolve. Although he lacks all tools to assist him, if his determination is firm enough, he can succeed.

Similarly, our generation, which the Rebbe called "the last generation of exile and the first generation of the Redemption," lacks some of the spiritual requirements for preparing for Moshiach. We certainly haven't purified our thought, speech and action, even to the level of previous generations. Our spiritual stamina is also far inferior to that of our predecessors.

The merit that our generation has in bringing Moshiach is the firm resolve and determination to herald the Redemption. This is manifest by our full faith that the Redemption is imminent and by firmly upholding our connection to G-d. Despite how spiritually unequipped we are, our firm resolve demonstrates that our connection with G-d can never be broken. Though we may have strayed, we proclaim by this belief that the connection of the essence always remains intact.

Our generation is so close to the peak of the mountain. Much of our ascent has been on the merits of our righteous predecessors. All that remains for us to do is to climb those last few inches.

We are very close to the mountain's summit. As ill-equipped climbers, every rock or indentation in the mountain is useful and essential. Anything that can be used to grab onto, to steady ourselves, is precious to us. Even a single twig, which before may have been overlooked, is now crucial.

Similarly, any small mitzva or act of G-dliness is all the more significant in our times. For the last boost of energy to reach the peak of the mountain, every act of kindness is critical.


Living with the Rebbe

The first of this week's two Torah portions, Tazria, contains the mitzva of circumcision, brit mila: "And on the eighth day shall the flesh of his foreskin be circumcised."

The Midrash relates that our Sages asked a question: If G-d wants Jews to be circumcised, why doesn't He create them that way in the first place? Surely it is not beyond the power of the omnipotent Creator to do so.

The reason, they explain, is the principle of tikun, or correction. G-d deliberately creates many things in the world in an incomplete or partial state, all for the purpose of the Jew perfecting them. Indeed, this is the Jew's Divine mission: to bring G-d's creation to perfection through Torah and mitzvot.

Of course, G-d doesn't really need our help; He could just as easily have created everything at the very peak of perfection. However, appointing us as His "partners" allows us to earn merit and actually "work" for the blessings we receive in life.

When a Jew fulfills his Divinely-ordained mission and imbues the world with holiness, all the goodness G-d bestows upon him -- life, children, and livelihood -- is transformed from a "charitable donation" into his rightful due.

G-d isn't giving him a gift; he deserves all these blessings because he has worked for them.

At the same time, awareness of this relationship prompts the Jew to want to do even more to fulfill his end of the bargain, for human nature is such that a person abhors being sustained by the "bread of shame." Circumcision is only one example of how we earn this merit.

A similar question may be asked about the seemingly inequitable distribution of wealth in the world. Why does G-d give so much money to some and so little to others? Why can't the poor person receive his sustenance directly from G-d instead of relying on the generosity of others? The answer is that G-d wants the rich man to earn additional merit by giving tzedaka to the poor.

In truth, not all the money in his possession belongs to him; G-d merely puts it in his hands so it can be redistributed in a more equitable fashion.

Yes, the more affluent person faces a difficult test, for his Evil Inclination rises up in protest. But the fact of the matter is that when he overcomes his Inclination and gives to the needy, not only does he not forfeit his wealth, but G-d grants him even more in payment for his good deed.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 27


A Slice of Life

From a speech given by
Ariella Goldberg at the Chabad Lubavitch Community Centre in Thornhill, Ontario.

I was born and raised in Beverly Hills and relocated to Toronto five years ago. I am a member of the Lubavitch community. I have a degree in sociology, sing professionally and am now a mother, my chosen career path for the next few years.

In 1981, I attended my ten-year high school reunion. Two questions dominated the evening: what is your career and how much money do you make. I certainly didn't earn too many accolades when I told them I was a part-time pre-school teacher and content mother.

In 1991, I attended my twenty-year high school reunion. This time around, everyone was preoccupied with three very different questions: Are you married? Do you have children? Are you happy? If the answer to the last question was "yes," then another question was asked: How is that possible?

The class of '71 had grown up somewhat. All appreciated the comforts of material wealth, but most in attendance, including a famous actress and a writer for the television series, Melrose Place, had the same pressing issues and were desperately seeking answers.

If someone had told me -- a California beach girl, who was voted "most likely to succeed" -- that I would be married to a Rabbi, have four children and live in suburbia as a practicing Jew, I never would have believed it.

Like other young girls, I thought everyone grew up like I did. Every Saturday my father would take my brother and me to the pony rides and then breakfast at the famous farmer's market. Sunday was always family day beginning with lox, bagels and cream cheese and sailing on my parents' boat around Santa Monica Beach. Again, like many, when I became a teenager, my time was spent shopping with friends, listening to Beatles music, and discussing boys. I really didn't care about Vietnam, world events or poverty on the streets.

In 11th grade, while studying Plato, Kant, and Nietzsche, I began to question my identity.

Eastern philosophies were avant garde at the time, so I read about various ways of thinking. It was interesting, but I couldn't see myself adopting eastern ways of life.

I went away to college only to come home and discover that my home, which was once a safe-loving haven and popular hang-out for my friends seemed very different. Not because of my experience as a "Flower Child" in the Haight-Ashbury district, but because I saw my parents drifting apart.

I began to panic, took a hard look in the mirror and became very insecure. Passing through my mind were the words, "Most likely to succeed." Succeed, what does this really mean? How would I find success? Maybe Prince Charming would never ride in on his white stallion and sweep me away from all this!

I went on a tour in Israel. When I returned to California I wanted to belong to a community with a set of values I could live by and respect, and people who were committed to positively impacting others.

I wanted to meet a person with whom I could share my life. I wanted to develop a real sense of self-worth and create some sort of legacy.

I was committed to leading a more fulfilling life. And I still hoped that one day Prince Charming would appear and we would live happily ever after.

Someone handed me a brochure about women with backgrounds similar to mine, learning in a Chasidic women's yeshiva in Minnesota. I went. Upon arriving, I recall opening the door to an action-packed scene of women learning, eating, mothers running after their kids.

Many of them were dressed modestly. Surprisingly, I felt very much at home with these people who didn't look, act or talk like me. One woman told me she gained enormous satisfaction by being with her family every Friday night and Saturday, after working feverishly to prepare for the Sabbath. I thought the woman was pulling my leg. Yet, I knew instinctively that she had a passion and a zest for life which was undiminished by the daily grind of working outside the home and caring for her family -- a passion and a zest that was lacking in me.

I encountered many women who were doctors, lawyers, teachers and social workers who had devoted significant time over and above their busy careers to learn about different ways to approach life.

They knew who they were, where they had come from and where they were headed. These women had a very positive attitude towards life and they were devoted wives, mothers, and professionals. Their commitment to doing acts of goodness seemed to propel them to give relentlessly of themselves in ways which helped others. Needless to say, I was impressed. I wanted to have their contentment and their inner peace.

I remember promising to myself I would change instantly, but I broke that promise many times. It was not an overnight process. I'm only human.

The transition began slowly, but I was growing every day. While we all have different needs which must be respected -- spiritual and material -- most of us share the same ultimate values, notwithstanding our individual backgrounds, orientations and personal circumstances.

The highs in my life now come from living each day as happily as I can, while giving to my family, friends, and those in need. As I see my children grow and contribute to the well-being of others, I know my years of tribulation were for a greater purpose and I am now creating the legacy I was seeking.


A Call To Action

Summer's not far off:

The way a child spends his summer is just as important if not more important than how he spends the rest of the year. Children should be in an environment that gives them a positive feeling about Judaism and fosters Jewish pride.

The Rebbe urged: "Efforts must be made to enroll children in Torah camps. Everyone should try to influence his neighbors or people with whom he has contact to send their children to such camps."

(The Rebbe, 26 Nissan, 5750)


The Rebbe Writes

FUTURE OF AMERICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY
From a letter of the Rebbe

15 Iyar, 5724 [1964]

I was sorry to hear from Rabbi -- that you have not been feeling up to par recently. I trust that this letter will find you in improved health, and may G-d grant you a speedy and complete recovery, so that you should be able to continue your good work for a better and happier environment, in good health and with joy and gladness of the heart.

If you suspect that by saying "a better and happier" environment I have in mind something that has to do with the Torah and mitzvot, you are quite right, for the Torah is the true good, and the source of true happiness.

I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge receipt of your letter in which you wrote about your participation in a symposium on the future of the American Jewish community as it will be one hundred and twenty years hence. Generally speaking, I take no pleasure prognosticating, even in regard to a more immediate future than one hundred and twenty years.

For one thing, there is the consideration that it is one of our basic principles of faith to wait and expect Moshiach every day, when the whole world will be established under the reign of the Al-mighty. But apart from this, everyone, even a non-religious person, can see clearly what unforeseen changes have taken place "overnight." Therefore, it serves no useful purpose to forecast what the state of affairs will be a century from now, however, this is a point of which you are not unaware, as is indicated in your letter.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that when a Jewish audience can be gathered together, the opportunity should not be wasted on empty platitudes, but should be made use of to the utmost, to provide them with a lasting inspiration which should be expressed in the daily life.

Of course, I do not know what kind of audience there is going to be in this particular instance. I believe, however, that the following observations are valid for any type of Jewish audience:

It is customary to find fault with the present generation by comparison with the preceding one. Whatever conclusions one may arrive at from this comparison, one thing is unquestionably true, namely that the new generation is not afraid to face the challenge.

I have in mind not only the kind of challenge which would make them at variance with the majority, but even the kind of challenge which calls upon sacrifices and changes in their personal life.

Some of our contemporary young people are quite prepared to accept this challenge with all its consequences, while others who may not as yet be ready to accept it, for one reason or another, at least show respect for those who have accepted it, and also respect for the one who has brought them face to face with this challenge. This is quite different from olden days, when it took a great deal of courage to challenge prevailing popular opinions and ideas, and a person who had the courage to do so was often branded as an impractical individual, a dreamer, etc.

Furthermore, and in my opinion this is also an advantage, many of our young people do not rest content with taking up a challenge which has to do only with a beautiful theory, or even deep thinking, but want to hear also about the practical application of such a theory, not only as an occasional experience, but as a daily experience; and that is the kind of idea which appeals to them most.

A further asset is the changed attitude towards the person who brings the challenge.

Even though it seems logical that the one who brings the challenge to the young people should have a background of many years of identification with and personification of the idea which he promulgates, this is no longer required or expected nowadays, when we are used to seeing quick and radical changes at every step in the physical world.

If this is possible in the physical world, it is certainly possible in the spiritual world, as our Sages of old had declared, "A person may sometimes acquire an eternity in a single instant." Thus, no individual can ignore his duty to share his newly-won truth, even if he has no record of decades of identification with it. As a matter of fact, this may even be an added advantage, in that it can impress on the audience a precedent.

You will surely gather that the preceding paragraphs are in reference to the beginning of your letter, in which you express your discontent at the lack of deeper knowledge of the various aspects of the Torah.

Besides, you surely recall the saying of the wisest of all men about true wisdom, "The more the knowledge, the more the pain." For, in regard to the knowledge of the Torah, which represents the infinite wisdom of the Ein Sof, the more one learns, the more one becomes painfully aware of the distance which is still to be covered, a distance which is indeed infinite.

As a matter of fact, even in the so-called exact sciences, every discovery uncovers new unexplored worlds and raises more questions than it answers. Yet, this is what provides the real stimulus and challenge to learn and probe further. How much more so in regard to the Torah, Torat Chaim, the true guide in life, both the physical and spiritual life.

Incidentally, the present days of Sefira, which connect the festivals of Passover and Shavuot, have a bearing on the subject matter. For, just prior to the departure from Egypt, the Jews were in a state of slavery in its lowest form, being slaves in a land which the Torah calls "The abomination of the earth."

Indeed, anyone familiar with the conditions in Egypt in those days knows how depraved the Egyptians were in those days, and much of this had tarnished the character of the Jews enslaved there. Yet, in the course of only fifty days, the Jews rose to the sublimist height of spirituality and true freedom, both physical and spiritual.

Furthermore, the spiritual freedom which the Torah had brought them, and which has also illuminated to some extent the rest of the world, was linked with material freedom, namely freedom from any material problems, as the Torah tells us that the children of Israel had the Manna and the Well, and all their material needs were provided in a miraculous way.

The narratives of the Torah are not simply stories for entertainment, but are in themselves a part of the general instruction and teaching which the Torah conveys in all its parts. And in these narratives we find also the answer as to how the situation might be under certain conditions at some time in the future. If the conditions would be similar to those which existed at the time when the children of Israel left Egypt, with complete faith in G-d, following the Divine call in the desert, leaving behind them the fleshpots of Egypt and the fat of the land, not even taking any provision with them, but relying entirely on G-d, and in this state of dedication to the truth, they followed the Pillar of Light by day and by night -- should these conditions be duplicated, or even approximated, then one may well expect a most radical change, not only over a period of years, but in the course of a number of days.


What's New

W.H.O. AT CHABAD

World Health Organization scientists Dr. Keith Baverstock and Dr. Furio Pacini visited the Chabad Children of Chernobyl Project in Kfar Chabad, Israel, to begin formal collaboration on several research projects into the effects of radiation released at the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The scientists are with Jay Litvin, medical liaison for the Chabad project, and girls who arrived on Chabad's 21st flight. The number of children evacuated by Chabad is well over the 1,000 mark.

PASSOVER ACTIVITIES

At the nearly 3,000 Chabad Lubavitch Centers and institutions world- wide, Passover activities were conducted on a grand scale. Hands-on model matza bakeries hosted hundreds of thousands of children.

Chabad sponsored public Seders were held in nearly 2,000 locations including the C.I.S., Katmandu in Nepal and assistance for Pesach as far away as Antarctica where 10 Jewish scientists are "holed up" in sub-zero weather.


A Word from the Director

The 2nd of Iyar, April 21 this year, is the birthday of the fourth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel. A well-known motto of Rabbi Shmuel, known as the Rebbe Maharash, was "L'Chatchila Ariber."

This means, "To begin with, go over" and is based on the Rebbe Maharash's teaching that "some people say if there is an obstruction try to go around it, but if you can't then go over it. I say, 'to begin with, go over it.' "

What follows is some interesting history about the birth of the Rebbe Maharash:

After a devastating fire in the city of Lubavitch destroyed his home, the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Chabad Rebbe) decided to buy additional property and build a large home with a synagogue within.

The Tzemach Tzedek wanted to make the dedication of the new home on the holiday of Shavuot. But his wife, the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, wanted to give birth in the new home. Thus, as soon as she went into labor, the Rebbetzin went to the new home, which was not yet furnished.

When the Tzemach Tzedek was informed that his wife was in labor, he went immediately to the new home. He told his three sons to say various chapters of Psalms. He instructed the midwife to immerse herself in a mikva before delivering the baby and to wrap the baby when born in a special cloth he had brought with him.

On the second of Iyar, 1834, a son was born to Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka and the Tzemach Tzedek. Eight days later, on the ninth of Iyar, the brit took place and the baby -- who would later become the fourth Chabad Rebbe -- was named Shmuel.

Two explanations are given for the name, as "Shmuel" was not a name in the family of the Tzemach Tzedek or his Rebbetzin. To his son, Reb Yehuda Leib, the Rebbe explained that the name was for a water-carrier by the name of Shmuel who was a great Torah scholar. Somewhere else it is recorded that the Tzemach Tzedek said that Shmuel the Prophet had come to him and requested that the child be named "Shmuel."


Thoughts that Count

"Rabbi [Yehuda HaNasi] said, ...Be as careful in a minor mitzva as with a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot..." (Ethics of the Fathers 2:1)

Fulfill all of the mitzvot in order to please your Creator, not in order to receive reward or honor. One who is interested in achieving honor through the mitzvot tries to fulfill the "major" mitzvot, whereas he tends to place less emphasis on the "minor" mitzvot. That is, he fulfills the mitzvot which will bring him more honor.

(Or Torah of the Maggid)

"He [Rabbi Gamliel] used to say: Fulfill His will as you would your own will, so that He may fulfill your will as though it were His will..." (2:4)

Try to make the will of the Almighty your own will, and fulfill His will as you fulfill your own wholeheartedly and with enthusiasm. And if the Almighty's will is difficult for you to fulfill, set aside your will because of His will. As a reward, the Holy One, blessed is He, will nullify the will of others, who do not agree with the way you would like things to be, and He will agree with your view.

(Machzor Vitri)

"He used to say: ...The bashful person cannot learn, neither can the short-tempered teach... " (2:5)

A student should not be too bashful in front of his colleagues to say, "I do not understand." Rather, he should ask and ask again, even several times.

(Shulchan Aruch HaRav)

A teacher who is overly rigid and oppressive prevents his words from being accepted by his audience. His students will not be able to discuss their learning with him in the proper way.

(Meiri)


It Once Happened

The disciples of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe, were often sent by him to distant places in order to inspire Jews in their G-dly serivce. While on these missions, the Rebbe's emissaries collected funds for scholars in the Holy Land, a charity to which the Rebbe was devoted from his youth. One such emissary was the chasid Reb Zalman Zezmer.

When Reb Zalman came to the Rebbe to receive his blessing for the success of his mission, the Rebbe added the unusual words: "Don't spend the night in a house whose door faces east."

True to the Rebbe's blessing, Reb Zalman was highly successful in his travels, touching the hearts of hundreds of Jews. He also managed to collect a handsome sum of money to be sent to the Holy Land to sustain Torah scholars who had no means of support other than the money from their brethren abroad.

Reb Zalman was happily on his way home, having fulfilled the command of his Rebbe, when he noticed that the wagon was traveling off the beaten road. The driver too had realized the error, but in the blackness of the country road he had no idea how to get back to the main road. They continued on their way, allowing the horses to blindly proceed when suddenly in the distance they saw a light. Following the light, they soon arrived at a house. They knocked on the door and were warmly received by the elderly resident.

Reb Zalman and his driver were exhausted by the trip and their frightening experience of being lost in the darkness. Reb Zalman washed his hands in preparation for praying the evening service, and turned to his host to inquire which direction was the eastern wall, the direction of prayer. When the old man pointed to the door, Reb Zalman froze in his place, the words of the Rebbe sounding in his ears, "Don't stay in a house which has the door in the east."

He immediately called the driver and in frantic tones told him, "Prepare to leave at once!" The driver looked at him in astonishment. "What? Leave now? Why we've only just arrived and besides, we have nowhere to go and don't even know where we are!" Still the appearance of Reb Zalman and his tone of urgency left no room for question.

He began to gather their belongings and was headed for the door when he was stopped by the booming voice of their host who screamed at the top of his lungs: "Where do you think you're going? I take guests into my house, but I don't let them go so fast! Put down your belongings, you're not leaving this house!"

With that frightening announcement, the man left the room and bolted the door behind him. The two prisoners just stared at each other, wondering what to do. Rough voices were heard as a group of men entered the adjoining room behind the locked door. "What's that carriage outside?" roared one of the voices. "Look's like you've managed to snare a pretty fancy one this time."

"You've hit it on the head there," snickered the erstwhile host. "Why, they're loaded; I could hear the coins jingling all the way across the house."

"I'm gonna get a look for myself," said one of the band, and with that the door swung open. Greeting the eyes of the prisoners was quite a vision: six gangsters with blood in their eyes. "Ha!" one barked, "I guess these ones won't escape while we eat. It looks like they're here to stay." A variety of grunts and laughs followed as the murderous gang proceeded to crowd around a table.

But Reb Zalman, having been sent to perform a mitzva by his Rebbe, was undaunted by their threats. "Listen to me," he cried. "I have been sent by a very holy man, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, a saint who knows many secret things, and you will never get away with your evil plans, for his merit protects me. My master warned me not to spend the night in a house whose door faces east. Your fellow thief can attest that as soon as I realized that the door of this house faces to the east I tried to flee, but he prevented me from leaving. And now, I warn you, if you don't allow us to depart in peace, my holy master will avenge our blood and you will live to regret your deed!"

The gang members burst out in raucous guffaws...all except one -- the owner of the house whose countenance seemed to change as soon as he heard those words pronounced.

At nightfall, Reb Zalman and his companion were again closed behind the heavily barred door and, imprisoned in the darkness, they recited Psalms with much weeping and pleading for Divine mercy. At the crack of dawn they heard furtive footsteps approaching from the other side of the door. When the door opened they saw the owner of the house standing before them, his fingers to his lips, warning them to be quiet, motioning to them to follow him.

When they stepped into the main room, the man said in a low voice, "Hurry, I will help you escape." He led them to their wagon and as they were readying the horses for the escape he whispered, "I saved you because of your Rebbe. Take these fifty rubles to give to the holy man."

They urged on the horses and sped toward Liadi. When they arrived, the Rebbe said to them: "I didn't sleep the entire night on your behalf." He then took the fifty ruble note and stuck it into a crack in the wall, and there it remained. Years later an elderly man arrived in Liadi and requested to see the Rebbe. The Rebbe refused to admit the man, but removed the fifty ruble note from the crack in the wall and ordered that it be given to him.


Moshiach Matters

Do not be amazed by the fact that Moshiach will be one of those who arise in the Techiya [Resurrection]. For this possibility was already considered by our Sages in Talmud Sanhedrin: Said Rav Asi, "If he is among the living he is like Rabbeinu HaKadosh. If he is among the dead, he is like Daniel Eish Chamudot."

(Abarvanel in Yeshuot Meshicho p. 104)


  413: Shemini415: Achrei-Kedoshim  
   
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