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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Eli Hecht
More and more school systems are announcing that school uniforms have proven to be a great success. The compulsory law requiring students to wear particular uniforms has brought pride to the children. Uniforms have also taken away the need for students to compete with fashion. In addition, it has removed gang colors from school halls and improved compliance with previously established dress-codes.
This is important to our schools but nothing new to children in yeshivot. There, all children must dress within the Torah's laws of modesty and all boys must wear kippot.
Modest dress is a reminder that we should not look at a person's externals but rather, concentrate on that which is within. The kippa (or yarmulka) is a reminder that G-d is above us, always watching and protecting us.
Once when I was a youngster in yeshiva, our teacher told the class the following story which had a life-long impact on me and how I viewed my "Jewish uniform."
In 1835 the Jews of Russia were subject to terrible persecution. Anti-Semites in the government convinced Czar Nicholas I to allow pogroms and hundreds of Jewish families were killed.
In the Russian town of Slowieta, two brothers, Shmuel and Pinchas Shapiro, ran a printing press. The brothers were very religious and produced the most elegant printing. In a few years they were the most famous printers in Europe. The anti-Semitic Russian government officials were jealous and schemed to destroy them.
A Jewish worker, Lazer Protogeen, was found hanged in the synagogue. Lazer was the bookbinder for the Shapiros and had been very depressed.
This was the excuse needed for the anti-Semitic officials. The brothers were arrested for killing Lazer. They were accused of taking revenge on Lazer for his report to the government of the printing of anti-government propaganda. The charges were proven false, but that didn't help the Shapiros. They remained in jail, subjected to daily tortures.
In the summer of 1841 the verdict was reached: The brothers had to confess or run the gauntlet. They had no choice; to lie was against the Torah.
Their hands would be tied at their sides. Five hundred soldiers holding leather whips would strike each brother as he was pulled through the gauntlet of soldiers. No one had ever survived.
The brothers were stripped to their waists and pulled through the gauntlet. During the third time through, the yarmulka fell off Pinchas' head. He refused to be led on. The soldiers kept striking the poor man, but he would not budge. A religious Jew does not walk with an uncovered head. Pinchas stood bleeding, his back completely raw, but he would not move. Finally, a soldier was moved by the proud Jew. He picked up the yarmulka and placed it on Pinchas who then allowed himself to be dragged onward.
Somehow the brothers survived. During the horrible punishment they kept praying to G-d. Never had soldiers seen such courage or strength. After the brother were nursed back to health they were sent to Siberia. Czar Alexander II freed them 17 years later.
We yeshiva boys were awed by the courage of Pinchas Shapiro. We promised our teacher that we would never remove our yarmulkas and would always dress in accordance with Jewish law.
When school administrations and parents gather to discuss dress-codes, a real concern is that one color or another for a dress code will cause gangs to rumble and establish turf wars.
What a wonderful gift Jewish children, and all Jews have, with the Torah as our dress-code guide. What a wonderful gift it would be if we could give all children a uniform that would remind them that G-d watches and protects them.
Rabbi Hecht is the director of Chabad of South Bay, Lomita California, and vice president of the Rabbincal Alliance of America.
The Torah begins with the word "Bereishit--In the beginning," the first letter of which is the letter beit.
Beit is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, yet G-d chose to begin His Torah precisely with this letter. One would think that the Torah would start with the letter alef, as everything in the Torah is arranged in an orderly fashion. Thus, at first glance it would seem more logical for the Torah to have opened with the word "Elokim"--"G-d created in the beginning the heavens and the earth," rather than with "Bereishit."
What are we to learn from the fact that the Torah begins with the letter beit?
Nothing in the Torah is unintentional or accidental. Rather, the specific use of the second letter of the alphabet alludes to the fact that, for the Jew, the actual study of Torah must be the second stage in his approach to G-d's wisdom.
Before learning G-d's Torah, the Jew must prepare himself appropriately. Only after he has done so will his learning be conducted in the proper manner G-d has prescribed.
How is a Jew to prepare himself? By contemplating the special holiness that the Torah contains. A Jew must always remember that G-d gave us His holy Torah for the express purpose of connecting ourselves to Him. Learning G-d's Torah is the means by which we may do so.
If a person does not think about G-d before he studies, he is liable to look upon the Torah as a collection of narratives, a guide to our conduct, or perhaps merely a book which contains great wisdom.
Without the proper preparation, he may forget that the Torah is sacred, and that its main objective is to allow us to connect ourselves with the Giver of the Torah.
To remind himself, the Jew must recite a blessing over the Torah every morning before he commences learning. By saying "Blessed are You L-rd, Who gives the Torah," we place the One Who has given us the Torah foremost in our minds.
Only then do we arrive at the second stage, the stage of actual study, through which we attach ourselves to G-d. And the more Torah we learn, the more connected we are to Him.
Thus the letter beit serves to teach us that the Torah is G-d's Torah, and that the primary purpose of its study is to connect ourselves to Him.
Adapted for Ma'ayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 15
by Ahava Spillman
Chaya Smukler is a tender, affectionate, compassionate individual who embraces life with infectious joy. As a chasid, she brings joy to even the most mundane tasks.
From the free-spirited 60s, her abundant energies are now focused. She credits Judaism for exploding her potential. Her "story" begins in 1964 when she first met her husband, Henry, at the Jewish Community Center in Montreal.
"We noticed each other immediately," Chaya remembers. He turned out to be her gymnastics teacher at the JCC. He was 18 and she was 14. A week later, Henry arrived at her parents' house and asked Chaya's father if she was home.
"You came to see Clara?" he asked. "Go home and come back in four years!"
But Henry returned the next week, and when Chaya was 17 they were married. They lived in downtown Montreal; Henry was studying at McGill University and Chaya was gainfully employed to put Henry through school. After a few years they moved to Toronto where Henry completed his degree in Chiropractics.
Chaya always believed strongly in a Superior Being but had never been involved in Judaism. It didn't occur to the Smuklers as they delved into the Eastern philosophies--Hinduism and Buddhism--that truth lay in their own backgrounds.
When the Smuklers were expecting their third child, some Israeli friends introduced them to "Amway," which sold not only soap but the opportunity to be "Born Again." They became very involved in a "Jewish Christian" congregation until it occurred to them that perhaps they should check out the Jewish side of the equation. Their son was attending a Zionist Hebrew Day School, so they approached his principal to find answers to their soul-searching questions: "What is a Jew?" "Why are we here?"
The principal smiled and encouraged them to be content with the wealth of tradition and ritual that Judaism offers.
But the Smuklers were not content. Did no answer exist for these basic inquiries?
Their next attempt was to approach a community rabbi. At their first meeting, he told them, "Join our Synagogue. Come to classes. It only costs $820 and we'll answer all your questions."
The Smuklers left frustrated, but not foiled. They called a local Jewish agency and asked where they could go to find answers to a Jewish identity crisis. After being transferred to six different departments, someone in the background yelled, "Tell them to call Lubavitch."
"Who's Lubavitch?" Chaya asked Henry. "They're the black-hatters." Chaya was ready to drop the whole thing.
The following day two things occurred. Chaya found out that her parents, who had moved to Israel, had become very observant, and she called Lubavitch.
When Rabbi Yossi Gansburg answered the phone, Chaya said, "We'd like to come speak to someone but we don't want to join!"
"Okay," Rabbi Gansburg answered. "We don't want to become members," Chaya insisted. "When do you want to come?" Rabbi Gansburg continued. "Is tomorrow good for you?"
Rabbi Gansburg's answers were complete, open and honest. Finally there was no hidden agenda. When they asked specifically about "Jewish Christians," Rabbi Gansburg gave them a book to read. Chaya remembers staying up all night reading and feeling ecstatic. Finally there was clarity, finally there were answers.
"I need more books," she told Rabbi Gansburg the next day. "Come and get more," he answered. "Also, I have a Monday night class." "How much does it cost?" Chaya asked. "It's free."
"What I remember most vividly," recalls Chaya, "is that whatever we were doing was okay, anything more we were attempting to do was wonderful. Rabbi Gansburg helped us put up mezuzot and make our home kosher.
"When I was pregnant with our fourth child, the laws of Family Purity were introduced to us. I went to the mikva for the first time while in my eighth month. It was one of the most historical and spiritual moments of my life. I thought of great literature and great women, and a great tradition, and now I was a part of it."
Chaya reminisces, "What I've always loved about Lubavitch is the feeling of family and that everybody really cares. I didn't need to be perfect. I was always accepted--no matter what. Even if I was `out of line,' it was in the presence of family.
Chaya's next giant step was when she finally went to Crown Heights to see the Rebbe.
"The Rebbe saw exactly who and what I was and still loved me. Each time I'd go, my dedication to him became stronger and stronger and the Rebbe became my point of focus. Finally I understood all the stories about the Rebbe, all the excitement, all the reverence, all the piety. It is the strongest spiritual connection I will ever feel."
Chaya's sincerity is palpable. Her presence exudes a positive energy that is so refreshing, it's contagious. If we all attempt to emulate Chaya's goodness and kindness, the Redemption will certainly be here.
Reprinted from The World of Lubavitch, Toronto
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Our bodies are "on loan" from G-d and we are responsible for keeping them healthy.
"I take this opportunity to reiterate again what I have written to you several times in the past, that it is necessary to take care of one's physical health, especially in light of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, that every Jew should serve G-d with both body and soul together."
(A letter from the Rebbe, 13 Nissan, 5720-1960)
CONCLUDING THE MONTH OF TISHREI
6th of Marcheshvan, 5727 
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of October 12th, in which you also refer to a previous letter you wrote.
As you can well imagine, there is a great deal of correspondence that reaches me during the period of the month of Tishrei and prior to it, so that a delay is unavoidable, not only because of the volume of correspondence, but also of the various matters of the month of Tishrei and the intervening festivals, as well as the many visitors that come to spend this month with us here.
With regard to the question of hatzlacha [success] in study and the gaining of knowledge, surely you know of the promise of our Sages, "Try hard and you will succeed." Thus, success is largely something which depends on the student himself.
However, inasmuch as everything requires Divine help, including also that the "try hard" as well as the "and you will succeed" should be satisfactory, the way to obtain this is through devotion and diligence in the study of the Torah and the observance of the mitzvot with hiddur [special beauty]. This is mainly a matter of will and determination, for nothing stands in the way of the will.
Having just concluded the month of Tishrei, culminating with the joyous festival of Simchat Torah, you have surely heard the explanation of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi] that the joy of Simchat Torah is a double one: The Jews rejoicing with the Torah, and the Torah rejoicing with the Jews, based on the verses, "Israel rejoices with their Maker" and "G-d rejoices with His works."
And since all the festivals of the month of Tishrei conclude with Simchat Torah, it means that this mutual rejoicing can be achieved only through the fulfillment of the Torah and mitzvot, as it is stated in the Zohar, "Israel, the Torah and the Holy One blessed be He, are all one" -- the Torah placed in the center as the connecting link between Israel and G-d. We have but one Torah, comprising both Nigle [the "revealed" parts of the Torah] and Chasidut [the "inner" aspects of the Torah], which must be studied with a view to fulfillment of the mitzvot with hiddur, as emphasized by our Sages that the essential thing of the Torah study is the deed. This brings G-d's blessings for hatzlacha [success] not only spiritually, but also materially,
Hoping to hear good news from you,
3rd of Marcheshvan, 5731 
I trust that you had an inspiring month of Tishrei, and that the inspiration of all the festivals at the beginning of the year will be with you throughout the year, and be reflected in a growing dedication and devotion to the Torah and mitzvo t, and in your daily conduct in general.
I was pleased to receive regards from you through the visitors from your country and trust they have shared with you their experiences here on their return.
Inasmuch as all the festivals of Tishrei conclude on the inspiring note of Simchat Torah, setting the pattern for the rest of the year, may it be so with you throughout the year.
3rd of Cheshvan, 5734 
I duly received your correspondence.
At this time, coming from the month of Tishrei, which ushers in the new year and sets the tone for the entire year--
For which reason the month of Tishrei contains "samples" of the whole range of religious experience: Rosh Hashana--acceptance of G-d's Kingship; Yom Kippur--repentance; Sukkot--rejoicing with the Torah, and also the Torah rejoicing with Jews who live by the Torah and mitzvot--
I take this opportunity of expressing the firm hope that these experiences will be with you and yours throughout the year, permeated with the culminating note of Tishrei--true joy in Divine service and every aspect of the daily life, materially and spiritually.
My Shabbos 1,2,3's
This counting book with a Jewish twist is especially designed for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Donny and Dina are a brother and sister who prepare for the Sabbath together by setting the Shabbat table.
They bring out all the special Shabbat objects, counting as they go. Large, clear numerals opposite each set of objects will help even very young children learn to count. Catchy rhymes and vibrant colors throughout. Written by Surie Fettman, illustrated by Patti Nemeroff and published by HaChai Publishing.
SPICE AND SPIRIT
Now in its seventh printing, this award-winning cookbook is a must in any Jewish home. In addition to the thousands of outstanding and diverse recipes, the book also contains an overview of many Jewish holidays and customs. Available at Judaica stores or from the publisher by sending $32.95 to: Lubavitch Women's Cookbook, 852 Eastern Pwky., Bklyn, NY 11213.
This Shabbat is known as "Shabbat Bereishit." It is the Shabbat on which we read the very first portion of the first book of the Torah-- Bereishit.
The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, used to say that "the position which we adopt on Shabbat Bereishit determines the nature of our conduct in the entire year to come."
What does this mean and why is it so?
Shabbat Bereishit represents the transition from the holidays of the month of Tishrei to our regular, day-to-day life of the coming months.
Shabbat, in general, is known to elevate the spiritual service of the previous week. As Shabbat Bereishit follows the holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah--holidays which collect and internalize all the influences of the holiday-filled month of Tishrei--Shabbat Bereishit perfects and elevates the holidays of Tishrei.
In addition, Shabbat Bereishit is the Shabbat on which the upcoming month of Marcheshvan is blessed.
One of the reasons that the prefix "mar" is added to the Hebrew name of the month Cheshvan is that "mar" means bitter. The month of Cheshvan has no holidays and is therefore a "bitter" month, especially in comparison to the preceding, holiday-packed month of Tishrei.
Because Shabbat Bereishit has both of these two aspects--the culmination and elevation of the previous month and the blessing of the upcoming month--it has the potential to influence the entire year.
Thus, the position we adopt on Shabbat Bereishit has the potential to influence the entire year; it can bring the spiritual inspiration of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah into our regular, day-to-day living.
May we all have a very "successful" Shabbat Bereishit.
Bereishit--In the beginning... (Genesis 1:1)
The Written Torah starts with the word "bereishit," and the Oral Torah starts with the word "m-ei-matai." Thus, the first letters of the Written and Oral Torah spell the word "bam." This alludes to what our Sages tell us (Yoma 19b) on the words "ve dibarta bam--and you shall speak of them." A person should use his speech for the study of the Torah and not for idle or forbidden talk.
In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was formless and empty, with darkness over the depths...And G-d said: "There shall be light." (Gen. 1:1-3)
These opening words of the Torah teach the approach all Jews should take in serving G-d:
- It was G-d Himself who created heaven and earth, and therefore He alone is Master of the world and of everything within it.
- At first, the world is dark and empty of G-d's light. But every Jew has his own portion of the world, which he has to improve and illuminate.
- The way to brighten his portion of the world is through "and G-d said"--fulfilling G-d's word by studying Torah and keeping mitzvot. Through this, the Jew accomplishes his purpose in the world and "There shall be light"--the world becomes illuminated with the light of G-d's Torah.
(From a letter of the Rebbe)
And G-d blessed the seventh day. (Gen. 2:3)
What special blessing did Shabbat receive? The Talmud (Beitza 16a) says that the money a person will have for his expenses throughout the entire year is decided on Rosh Hashana. Exempted from this are his expenses for Shabbat. If a person spends much for Shabbat, Hashem will make available to him special sources of income to recover his expenditures.
The woman said to the snake, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, G-d said: 'You shall not eat of it, nor shall you touch it.'" (Gen. 3:2-3)
G-d had only told them not to eat of it. Why did Chava say they had been told not to touch it? This was accordance with an important Torah-law determining when forbidden food may or may not be touched.
On Passover one may not eat chametz (leavened food) nor even touch it. Since on Passover one eats all food except for chametz, one could forget and eat chametz by mistake. The Sages therefore forbade even to touch chametz. Chava thought the situation was similar to Passover, when all food besides chametz is allowed. Like chametz on Passover, so too would it have been wrong, she reasoned, to touch the forbidden tree so that they would not eat from it by mistake.
Reprinted from Vedibarta Bam, compiled by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
The anteroom adjoining the study of Rabbi Yitzchak Meir, founder of the Chasidic dynasty of Gur, was filled with people waiting to be received by the Rebbe and to be helped by his counsel and blessing.
Near the Rebbe's door stood his personal secretary, Reb Bunim, who presided over the waiting list; as soon as the door opened and a chasid would emerge from the Rebbe's room, all eyes would turn toward Reb Bunim, who would signal to the next in line to enter.
In the entranceway appeared a man, dressed in the manner of the wealthy Jewish merchants of the time: high boots of glossy leather, a heavy gold watch-chain draped across the vest, a fur-lined jacket enveloping a generous girth in defense against the Polish winter. But an anxious and care-worn face belied the luxurious attire; here was a man who had his troubles despite his wealth.
The man scanned the crowded room and a frown clouded his already despondent features. Impatiently, he made his way to the secretary. "I must see the Rebbe on an urgent matter," he whispered. "How much longer is the man inside going to be?"
"Have a seat," said Reb Bunim evenly, "and I'll put you on the list. What is your name, Reb Yid?"
"You don't understand," said the man, certain that the secretary indeed did not understand. "I must see the Rebbe now. I have an important meeting tomorrow in Warsaw, and I must be on my way shortly."
"But surely, Reb Yid, you don't expect me to let you in before all these people," said Reb Bunim. "Some of them have been waiting for hours..."
"That's exactly my point," said the visitor, who was beginning to lose his patience with the insolent secretary. "I cannot wait for an hour, or even half an hour. I wish to speak with the Rebbe immediately. You can save your lists for people with more time on their hands."
"I'm sorry," said Reb Bunim somewhat heatedly, rising to the challenge to his authority. "You must wait like everyone else..."
The crack of the merchant's palm against the face of the secretary resounded through the room, which fell into a shocked silence.
It took Reb Bunim several seconds to realize he had been slapped, and when he did, he just stood there, unable to utter a word. Nothing like this had ever happened in the Rebbe's waiting room, where no one dared even raise his voice at the Rebbe's secretary. In fact, the only one in the room not paralyzed by incredulity was the assailant himself, who, satisfied that he had at last made himself understood, proceeded toward the Rebbe's door.
At that very moment the door opened, and Rabbi Yitzchak Meir stood in the doorway. "How dare you raise a hand to a fellow Jew," he thundered. "I shall not receive you," he added, "until you have secured the forgiveness of the man you so unjustly attacked." With that, he closed the door behind him.
For a long second the merchant stood staring at the Rebbe's closed door. Abruptly, he turned on his heels and fled from the room.
Something in the man's face caught Reb Bunim's eye and caused him to hurry outside after his assailant. There he found him leaning against his coach, his large body racked with sobs.
"You?" said the man, when he saw who had followed him outside. "What do you want of me now? You have destroyed our last hope."
"Your last hope for what?" asked Reb Bunim quietly. "For fifteen years we've been childless, my wife and I," wept the man. "We've tried everything... We've been to all the doctors... I had hoped that the Rebbe would pray for us..."
"Come with me," said Reb Bunim, grabbing hold of the merchant's hand. Before the visitor knew what was happening, both were standing in the Rebbe's room.
"Rebbe!" said Reb Bunim, "I swear that I will never forgive this man, not in this world and not in the world to come, unless the Rebbe promises that he and his wife will be blessed with a child!"
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir looked from the anguished face of the merchant to the determined face of his secretary. Slowly, a smile broke out on his face. "May it so be the will of G-d," he finally said, "as Reb Bunim says..."
Reprinted from The Week in Review, published by VHH
R. Yitzchak Aizik of Homil, a chasid of scholarly renown, once said: "When Moshiach comes and the dead will be resurrected, among them will rise the Patriarchs, the leaders of the Twelve Tribes, Moshe and Aharon, all the prophets, all the tannaim and amoraim, and the geonim [great Torah sages] and tzadikim of all the generations. And whom will they seek out to rejoice with? The simple Jews."