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One of the innovations of modern life is the life insurance policy. Salesmen were already selling everything in existence, so they began selling something that has yet to come to pass, and that neither of the parties involved -- not the salesman, not the insurance company, and certainly not the customer -- wishes to come to pass.
This obviously makes for quite a difficult sell, but since the salesman's livelihood depends on it, he makes the effort, often succeeds to convince the customer to pay a premium for the possibility that he might meet an early death, G-d forbid.
The salesman raises this possibility not because he is convinced that this person will die in the near future -- indeed, his entire profit margin is based on the fact that this is less probable than people fear -- but in order to collect the quarterly check that assuages this fear.
The founder of the chassidic movement, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, would often say: "From everything that a person sees or hears, he should derive a lesson in his service of G-d."
If the selling of life insurance has become a phenomenon we encounter in our lives, we ought to search for its deeper significance and examine the insights it yields on life.
Life is a perpetual struggle between a person's material self (referred to in chassidic teaching as his "animal soul") and his transcendent, spiritual self (the "G-dly soul").
The Talmud advises that when a person's material inclination threatens to overpower him, he should "remind it of the day of death."
When a person contemplates the destiny of all flesh, this obviously subdues his physical drives and reinforces his spiritual strivings.
There are two ways, however, that this advice might be implemented.
One approach is to make the awareness of the dissolutive nature of the physical a permanent fixture in one's mind and translate this into a life of asceticism and self-deprivation.
The "day of death" becomes more than just an occasional reminder -- it becomes the guiding precept in a person's life.
Another approach regards physical life as positive and desirable, as an aid rather than a hindrance to spiritual life. The "day of death" is referred to not to break the animal soul, but to curb its excesses and induce it to invest its energies in finer and loftier pursuits.
In this case, the G-dly soul acts like the insurance salesman, who raises the prospect of death merely as a "sales pitch."
The G-dly soul does not desire the demise of the animal soul -- on the contrary, the longer the physical self remains healthy and productive, the greater its profit. Rather, it invokes the temporality of the physical only to exact a "premium" from the animal soul -- to convince it to contribute toward the spiritual goals of life.
Reprinted from The Week in Review, based on an address by the Rebbe.
The first of this week's two Torah portions, Chukat, begins: "This is the statute (chok) of the Torah." As we immediately learn, "this" refers to the commandment of the red heifer.
The mitzva of the red heifer falls into the category of chukim -- mitzvot for which there is no rational explanation.
There are many such super-rational mitzvot, i.e., the prohibition against eating non-kosher food, or wearing shaatnez (linen and wool in the same garment). Yet the mitzva of the red heifer is the foremost example of this type of commandment, as it completely transcends human understanding.
"Chok" comes from the root word meaning "engraved."
There are two ways in which letters may be written: with ink on parchment or paper, or by inscribing them on stone. When letters are written with ink, they remain separate entities from the parchment or paper; when they are inscribed, they become an integral part of the stone itself. And yet, upon examination, we see that there are two levels of "engraving":
The first level is when the letters are engraved on only one side of the stone. This type of inscription bears a superficial resemblance to the written word on parchment.
A second, higher level of inscription is that which was found on the Tablets of the Law which contained the Ten Commandments. In a miraculous manner, these letters were equally visible from both sides, seeming to float in the stone without relation to the stone itself.
These two types of inscriptions allude to the two levels of chukim.
The first category contains those super-rational mitzvot which, although we do not understand the reason behind them, the human mind may begin to comprehend them on some level.
The higher category of super-rational mitzvot, however, is completely beyond the human ken, above and beyond our ability to understand G-d's Divine wisdom.
A Jew, by nature, desires to fulfill G-d's will. It is the natural consequence of his possessing a G-dly soul, which exists on a plane which is higher than the intellect. This nature finds its fullest expression in the performance of super-rational commandments.
When a Jew observes a mitzva that has a rational explanation, the fact that he is doing so simply to fulfill the will of G-d is not so apparent, for his own thoughts and understanding may obscure, however slightly, his pure motivation.
Thus it is precisely in the observance of chukim, "letters which are inscribed from both sides," that the Jew's innate desire to obey G-d's command is most obviously expressed.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 8
The Previous Rebbe in 1940
by Tzvi Jacobs
The phone rang. "Hi, Karen, it's Tzippi. Would you like to spend this coming Shabbat with us?"
Karen felt touched that someone from the Lubavitch community in S. Paul still remembered her. She had met Tzippi the previous summer while studying at the Bais Chana Women's Yeshiva in Minnesota, and had enjoyed many Shabbat meals with Tzippi and her family.
Karen accepted the invitation. It would feel good to be back in the Lubavitch community, experiencing the joy of Shabbat.
On Saturday night, Karen went to the Chabad House to hear Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Hecht. Rabbi Hecht was an emissary sent by the Previous Rebbe in the 1940's to strengthen the Jewish community in Chicago.
"I had the privilege to be by the Previous Rebbe on the 12th of Tammuz before he passed away. He shared a very interesting idea from the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov had the custom of asking anyone who came to him, 'What do you remember?' meaning, what event in your life sticks out in your memory. When the person told him what he remembered, the Baal Shem Tov explained the meaning to him as it related to that individual's own personal life and mission.
"One of the basic interpretations of Divine supervision is that each and every individual hears that which is important for him to hear, and sees that which is necessary for him to see."
Rabbi Hecht went on to tell stories about the Previous Rebbe. Karen was inspired by the stories. Suddenly, Rabbi Hecht's deep voice boomed like thunder, jolting Karen from her reverie.
"During the war years, in Chicago," Rabbi Hecht said, "we had a fund called Keren Hatzala. By the war's end, we had collected $180,000 to be distributed to the Jewish refugees in Paris and the Holy Land. Amongst the three people sent to distribute it was Shumel Broida. Shmuel Broida was the president of Best's Kosher Food Products and he was also the president of Keren Hatzala."
Karen was stunned. "He's talking about Grandpa," she realized, astonished.
Rabbi Hecht continued talking. "When they came back [to Chicago], Mr. Broida gave a report and then told us, 'I had an experience that I shall never forget. In Paris, there were a thousand Russian Jewish refugees. I was very interested in finding out how these people lived through all the years that they were in Russia, so I spoke to the elders, the middle-aged, and then picked a little boy at random and asked: 'Look, little boy, I am going back to America. Is there anything that I can give you that you want very, very much?'
"As tears welled in his eyes, Reb Broida said, 'Do you know what this little boy said? He said, "I want to come to America to see the Rebbe." '
"Mr. Broida said he could understand an older person wanting to see the Rebbe, but a little boy of eight years old! He said, 'I thought he would want candy, a toy, a suit, shoes. Only one thing he wanted: to come to America to see the Rebbe."
Rabbi Hecht lowered his voice and said, "Mr. Broida, who was not a chasid, told us, 'If the Rebbe can leave such an impression twenty years after he has left the country, so that even little children grow up with the hope that someday they will be able to see the Rebbe -- this is something unique.'
Rabbi Hecht glanced around the silent room. Some people were wiping their eyes. In the front row he saw a young woman with tears streaming down her face.
Rabbi Feller also saw Karen sobbing. After the talk he whispered to Rabbi Hecht that he thought the teary young woman was the granddaughter of Mr. Broida. Rabbi Hecht approached Karen privately and confirmed Rabbi Feller's guess.
"Your grandfather and I were not close friends. He was much older than I, and well, let's just say we had different viewpoints on certain subjects. Still, we worked together on some projects. After he told the Keren Hatzala committee about his experience in Paris, he called me and asked if I would arrange a private meeting for him with the Rebbe. It was 1947 and the Previous Rebbe was in very poor health, so it was very hard to get an appointment with him. Nevertheless, I was able to arrange it.
"We flew to New York together. After a relatively long meeting, your grandfather walked out of the Rebbe's room and said, 'This was one of the most incredible experiences in my life.' That's all he would tell me. Then the Rebbe's secretary came out and said 'the Rebbe wants to see you.'
"The Rebbe said to me, 'Reb Shmuel Broida was just by me, and I asked him what he was involved in, and he told me. And then I asked, "What's doing with your children?" and Reb Shmuel burst into tears.' "
Rabbi Hecht looked solemnly at Karen and said, "The Rebbe looked at me and said, 'I promised him that one day he will have nachas [gladness] from his grandchildren.' "
"Until this moment, I didn't understand why your Zaidy cried and why the Rebbe called me into his office and told me what he said to your Zaidy."
Karen understood. Grandpa had six children, and all of them stopped being observant during their teen years. When Mr. Shmuel Broida passed away, of his 17 grandchildren, not one was the least bit observant.
Rabbi Hecht smiled slightly and said to Karen, "It was your grandfather's tears by the Rebbe that brought you back."
That night, Karen decided to follow Rabbi Friedman's advice to study full-time at the Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva in Crown Heights.
Today, seventeen years later, Karen and both her brothers, are married and observant. Karen (now known by her Jewish name, Shifra Chana) lives a fulfilling, Chasidic Jewish life with her husband and children in Morristown, New Jersey.
From the book Truths Revealed, by Tzvi Jacobs, available from the author by sending $14.95 to Tzvi Jacobs, PO Box 303, Morristown, NJ 07963
Encourage another Jew to do a mitzva
On the 12th and 13th of Tammuz we celebrate the liberation of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn from Communist imprisonment and exile on account of his work in strengthening Torah study and the practice of Judaism . A fitting way to pay tribute to the Previous Rebbe's accomplishments is to encourage another Jew to study Torah or do a mitzva. The Rebbe explained (on 10 Tammuz, 5751) that encouraging another Jew in Torah and mitzvot is an expression of the mitzva to "Love your fellow as yourself."
THE GIFT OF ART
5th of Kislev, 5728 
I was very gratified to receive your letter of November 30th, in which you write that you have been honored with the chairmanship of the Sponsor's Preview of an Exhibition of Chasidic Art to be opened by Jacques Lipchitz under the auspices of Detroit Friends of Chabad Lubavitch.
In addition to my being gratified at the choice per se, I was especially pleased to note the warmth and enthusiasm with which you have accepted this task. I trust that this spirit will be reflected also throughout the Exhibition and in the guests and visitors.
The essential aspect of true Jewish warmth and enthusiasm is that it expresses itself in practical deeds. For, however important the inspiration and feeling, the essential thing is that these should be translated into practical accomplishment. All the more so since this Exhibition is intended to further the cause of the very important and vital institutions of Lubavitch in Detroit as well as in the Holy Land, to enable them to carry out their tasks and meet the ever- growing demands made upon them in these crucial times.
I would like to take this opportunity to make a further point, which I had occasion to mention to our very distinguished friend Mr. Chaim Yaakov Lipchitz who, I am glad to note, is going to open the Exhibition.
I have known Mr. Lipchitz for many years, and know his sincere interest in all good things, especially those connected with our people. The point is that those who have been Divinely gifted in art, whether sculpture or painting and the like, have the privilege of being able to convert an inanimate thing, such as a brush, paint and canvas, or wood and stone, etc., into living form.
In a deeper sense, it is the ability to transform to a certain extent the material into spiritual, even where the creation is in still life, and certainly where the artistic work has to do with living creation and humans. How much more so if the art medium is used to advance ideas, especially reflecting Torah and mitzvot, which would raise the artistic skill to its highest level.
Indeed, this is the ultimate purpose of the Exhibition, which hopefully will impress and inspire the viewers with higher emotions and concepts of Yiddishkeit imbued with the spirit of Chasidut, and make them, too, vehicles of disseminating Yiddishkeit in their environment, and particularly through the educational institutions.
May G-d grant that the Exhibition be a complete success in all its stages -- preparation, duration and lasting effectiveness. May the merit of it stand you, and all concerned with this effort, in good stead, to be blessed by G-d in a most generous measure, in all needs, materially and spiritually.
NEW TORAH SCROLL
Amidst awe and rejoicing a special Torah Scroll written in honor of the Rebbe was completed on the third of Tammuz at Lubavitch World Headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway. The last letters of the Torah Scroll were filled in by prominent rabbis from around the world. The writing of the Torah Scroll was sponsored by the Lubavitch Women's Organization. Individuals and families participated by "purchasing" verses or entire Torah portions in this special Torah Scroll.
L'CHAIM IN PERSIAN
A Persian language edition of L'Chaim is currently being produced for distribution throughout the New York Metro area, and G-d willing, points beyond in the near future. The Persian L'Chaim, published monthly, is the work of (American) yeshiva students at Oholei Torah Yeshiva in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
On the third of Tammuz, the Previous Rebbe was informed that his life sentence in Communist jail was commuted to three years of exile in the city of Kostrama. On the twelfth of Tammuz, the day of his birthday, the Previous Rebbe was informed of his total release. Concerning his personal redemption, the Previous Rebbe wrote: "The Holy One, blessed be He, did not redeem me alone... but all those who are referred to with the name 'Israel.' "
The Previous Rebbe's redemption came about in stages. First, the Rebbe's life sentence was commuted to three years in exile. Afterward, the three years in exile was dismissed and the Rebbe was free to leave Russia -- even told to leave Russia -- and was assisted in his departure by the very same people who had initially imprisoned him.
A further stage in the Previous Rebbe's redemption was his coming to America, which brought about an increase in the work of spreading the teachings of Chasidut throughout the world.
And this increase in the spreading of the teachings of Chasidut continues even to this day. It serves to hasten the Redemption, as exemplified by the famous quote of Moshiach to the Baal Shem Tov that Moshiach would come when "your [the Baal Shem Tov's] teachings are spread outward."
The Rebbe explained that in connection with the 12th of Tammuz, it is customary to organize gatherings which will inspire people to study and spread the teachings of Chasidut. Furthermore, the Rebbe related, "This will generate the potential of the transformation of the Three Weeks [of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple] into a positive period, with the coming of the ultimate Redemption. Even before that Redemption comes, we will merit a succession of Divine miracles. When one Jew will ask another, "What was the last miracle that happened?" He will be unable to answer because the miracles are taking place in such rapid succession. And these miracles will lead to the ultimate miracles, those which accompany the Redemption from exile." May it happen immediately.
Abraham our Father was tested with ten tests, and he withstood them all to show how great was Avraham our Father's love [for G-d]. (5:3)
Avraham is described as our father. Just as a father bequeaths his estate to his descendants, Avraham bequeaths his spiritual legacy to the entire Jewish people. His spiritual legacy empowers each of us, endowing us with the strength to withstand the challenges we face in our divine service.
(Sichot Parshat Chukat, 5737)
Ten miracles were wrought for our ancestors in the Holy Temple... Nor did any man ever say to his fellow man: The place is too crowded for me to lodge overnight in Jerusalem." (5:5)
This miracle can also be understood as an expression of the unity generated by Jerusalem. The Mishna does not say that the city was not crowded. On the contrary, it is highly likely that it was, for finding lodgings for the multitude of festive pilgrims could not have been easy. Nevertheless, the unity which the city inspired motivated both hosts and guests to be accommodating, and everyone accepted the crowded conditions willingly, without allowing the congestion to detract from their love for the holy city.
(Sichot Motzei Shabbat Parshat Re'eh, 5738)
There are four character types among men: He who says, "What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine," is a peasant... (5:10)
What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine: There are people who have been struck with a certain illness -- that whatever someone else has is better, more beneficial, worth more, etc., than what he has. You will always hear them saying, "Come, let's swap." The peasant described here has this shortcoming, and his character is thus defective.
Any love that is conditional will cease when the condition upon which it depends vanishes. But if it is unconditional, it will never cease...(5:16)
These two types of love represent two stages in a person's Divine service.
Initially, a person serves (G-d) with expectation of a reward -- this is conditional love. Later, he may reach the stage of unconditional love -- where he serves G-d without expectation of reward.
The ruling in Jewish law is that a person should always occupy himself with Torah and mitzvot, even if this is not entirely for its own sake, for eventually this will lead to service without any ulterior motives -- "for its own sake."
(Biurim l'Pirkei Avot)
The Previous Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, he devoted his entire life to the material and spiritual well-being of the Jewish people.
Living at a time when the Communist Soviet regime set the destruction of Judaism as one of its prime goals, the Rebbe spared no effort in opposing their edicts, to the point of endangering his own life numerous times. When the Rebbe finally escaped from Europe in 1940, he was physically broken by the terrible tortures he was subjected to by the Communists. But, although he was confined to a wheelchair and in a weak physical condition, the Rebbe's spiritual strength was completely intact. Noting that "America is not different," [from Europe] the Rebbe set about actualizing his goal of bringing a strong, vibrant Judaism to these shores.
How is a personality such as the Previous Rebbe developed and nurtured? The answer is a complex one, for a Rebbe is inherently possessed of a special type of soul, one which is tied to the souls of all the Jewish people.
The Previous Rebbe, having been an assiduous observer of his surroundings and having written his observations in many volumes of his memoirs and commentaries, has provided us a fascinating record of his childhood.
An only child, the Previous Rebbe had a very deep relationship with his father, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber, the "Rebbe Rashab," who took tremendous pains in educating and grooming his son for the formidable task which lay ahead.
In his diary, the Previous Rebbe described a particularly poignant and telling incident in his youth, which gives us a precious insight into the awesome preparation of a Rebbe.
When the Previous Rebbe was fifteen years old, his father asked him to be his personal secretary. He was given tasks to perform, including frequent meetings with great rabbis from other parts of Russia and dealing with the Russian government.
In his diary, the Previous Rebbe wrote:
On Thursday, 12 Tammuz, it was my fifteen birthday. My father took me to the Ohel, [the holy resting place] where my ancestors, the Rebbe Maharash and the Tzemach Tzedek, are buried.
When we arrived at the small shul next to the Ohel, we went in, and my father opened the holy ark and said, "Today I am bringing my son to fulfill Your service. When an offering is given up to Hashem, two sides are involved -- the one who is giving it and the tribute itself. Just as Abraham our Father bound his son, Isaac, so that he would not have any imperfections, I also want to offer my son to You in the most fitting manner."
Suddenly, my father burst into tears. Even though I didn't really understand what was going on, I began to cry, too. Then we sat together next to the open ark and learned half a chapter of Tanya [the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chasidut].
"I want to make an agreement in front of my ancestors," my father said. He told me to stand in front of him. Then he laid his hands upon my head. "Today I am giving over to you the task of devoting yourself to the Jewish people, physically and spiritually," he said. My father then explained to me, at great length, the idea of dedicating oneself completely to this service.
My father went into the Ohel while I waited inside the shul and recited Psalms. I could hear my father also saying Psalms and sobbing. It made me very nervous, and I started to cry. My father opened the door of the Ohel and told me to come inside. "Come in, and my father, the Rebbe Maharash and my grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, will bless you." I was afraid. At first, I could only stand there, unable to move. Then I recovered a little and entered the Ohel. My father had lit seventy-two oil wicks. He led me close to my ancestors' graves and put his hand upon my head. I could hear him crying with heartfelt sobs, and I was deeply moved to see the tears running down his face.
At this point in time, the Rebbe Rashab began to pass on to his son, Yosef Yitzchak, as many of the duties he could during his lifetime. It was around this incident that there was an important meeting of leading rabbis scheduled to take place.
The Rebbe Rashab was invited, but was unable to attend. In his stead, he sent the fifteen-year old Yosef Yitzchak, but because of his youth, he sent Rav Shmuel Bezalel with him.
The Rebbe Rashab, however, instructed the older man, "Know that even though I am sending you to accompany my son, you should not interfere or even help him. He must take care of things himself."
Reprinted from The Rebbes, Chish Printing
"It is only our bodies which are in exile and subjugated to the gentile nations; our souls were never sent into exile or subjugation."
The Previous Rebbe after his release, on 12 Tammuz, from Communist imprisonment.