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October 18, 1996 - 5 Cheshvan 5757

439: Noach

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


  438: Breishis440: Lech Lecha  

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

Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, even parts of New York are deluged at this time of year with "Leaf Peepers"--people who travel specifically to view the awesome color changes in the all foliage.

Red, yellow, orange, burgundy, purple, a whole spectrum of color arrays itself in front of our eyes.

While it's easy to get caught up in contemplating the beauty of nature, it might even be more interesting to consider the Divine destiny of a leaf.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, told the following story which illustrates the extensive role Divine Providence plays in our lives:

A person walks down a path and notices a leaf fall from the branch of a tree. "Leaf, leaf" he whispers, "why did you fall at this very moment?"

The leaf replies, "The branch shook and I fell. Go ask the branch."

The person asks the branch and is answered, "A wind came and made me shake... go ask the wind."

The wind gives a similar answer: "I don't know why, but the Source of the wind made me shake the branch, go ask it."

When the person asks the Source of the Wind, it says, "I am not the master. I just follow orders. Go ask G-d and surely He can tell you why."

Finally the person addresses the question to G-d. "Why did the leaf fall?" he asks simply.

"Lift up the leaf and you will understand why."

The person raises the leaf and sees an ant carrying a large piece of food. He questions the ant, who explains, "I was tired and hot. This leaf came down, shaded me, and allowed me to rest before continuing my journey."

G-d's kindness and care is exercised for the benefit of each of His creations. Even the smallest ant is included in His master-plan.

Another leaf story illustrates this point:

Once, when Rabbi Shalom Ber of Lubavitch was strolling with his son, Yosef Yitzchok (later to succeed him as Rebbe) they passed through fields of grain. "Every movement of each stalk is actualized by Divine Providence for the sake of a purpose known to heaven," exclaimed Reb Shalom Ber. Yosef Yitzchok became engrossed in contemplating this concept of Divine Providence. Deep in thought, he picked up a leaf and tore it into little pieces as he walked.

"How can you treat an object created by G-d so casually?" his father rebuked him. "Just now we were speaking of Divine Providence. The leaf you tore was created by G-d for a particular purpose. In what way is the leaf less significant than you? Just as the human being has his own task to fulfill, so has this representative of the vegetable kingdom its function to perform--and both have a Divinely directed purpose."

So, the next time we're looking at leaves, we might want to consider these stories and how concerned G-d is with every aspect of all creation, including each one of us!


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Noach, begins with G-d's description of Noach [Noah]: "Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation." Even though Noach lived in a generation of sinful individuals, he nonetheless merited to receive this praiseworthy description from G-d.

Noach was the only member of his generation who behaved properly; the conduct of everyone else living at that time was depraved. But Noach was not ashamed of acting differently. He served G-d in an open manner.

In the merit of his exemplary behavior, Noach and his family survived the Great Flood while all others perished. Indeed, it was Noach and his children who re-populated the world and through whom mankind continues to exist. An entirely "new world" was established by Noach, as it were.

In truth, Noach's conduct contains a valuable teaching for every Jew. It sometimes happens that a Jew may want to learn Torah with great diligence, but the yetzer hara (evil inclination) intervenes. "Look around you," the yetzer hara stops him. "No one else takes his studies so seriously. Why must you be different from everyone else? Better you should close your books and do something else."

Or, one may want to observe a particular mitzva, but the evil inclination whispers: "Take a good look around! Do you see anyone else doing this mitzva? You shouldn't do it, either."

There are many instances in which the evil inclination tries to stop a Jew from doing a mitzva. Why, the entire world is filled with millions of people, and most of them are behaving in an entirely different fashion! How can you, a single and solitary individual, announce to the entire world (by doing that mitzva) that all of creation belongs to G-d? Why should you be different and recite a verse from Torah stating that "In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth"?

The arguments of the evil inclination must be answered by following Noach's example.

Just as Noach disregarded his surroundings, so too must every Jew pay no attention to the conduct of friends and colleagues when it is not in accordance with the teachings of the Torah. And just as Noach succeeded in his path, which was different from the rest of society's, so too, will every Jew succeed in conquering his yetzer hara, allowing him to learn Torah and observe mitzvot even in a hostile environment.

After the Flood, Noach merited to establish a new world. Similarly, every Jew has the power to save an entire world and bring redemption with "Moshiach Now!"

Based on an address of the Rebbe to Tzivos Hashem; Hitva'aduyot 5743


A Slice of Life

The following two articles are reprinted from "The Jewish Spark: Iowa's Premier Jewish Magazine," published by Chabad-Lubavitch of Iowa. Despite a Jewish population of less than 1% of the state's total population, Chabad of Iowa seems to be making a mark on the map of Jewish identity.
by David Feder

I am often asked why I, a Reform Jew, so strongly affiliate with Chabad-Lubavitch, as I have in nearly every city in which I have lived for twenty years. It's a matter of learning to boil water.

Let me explain: By the time I was 18 years old, my family had assimilated to where all we practiced of Judaism was Yom Kippur and Passover. We ate bacon, shellfish, and other treif. Shabbat meant nothing more than overtime or playtime.

I was a hippie, with hair down to my waist and protest in my heart, or at least on my record player. Then a friend of mine became a ba'alat teshuva [returnee to traditional Judaism] and married a Lubavitcher named Eli. Eli never said a word to me about religion, or Lubavitch or anything, and I never asked.

But one Saturday morning there was a knock on my door. It was Eli, standing there with a grin on his face. "We need a minyan!" he said.

"Are you kidding?" I asked. "I haven't been to shul in years, I don't know how to pray, and they'll never let me in with cut-offs and long hair."

"We need you," he answered, and grabbing my arm dragged me to shul. I went along, laughing inside because I knew that when the rabbi took one look at me he'd toss me out on my ear and I'd have the last laugh.

When I got to the shul, the rabbi flung open the door and grasped me in a bear hug. "You made the minyan!" he cried. "Now we can read the Torah!"

I was stunned. I knew what a minyan was, but I never knew that without one, the Torah portion couldn't be read. I resolved that day that just because it meant nothing to me, I could not in good conscience and through my inaction keep those good and decent people from their desire to read the Torah on Shabbat.

I used to be a chef. In fact, I was once one of the top chefs in the Southwest. But religiously, I couldn't even boil water. To know about Judaism--my heritage and my people--and to stem the slow death of our culture that began with the forced conversions of the Spanish Inquisition and fed directly into today's voluntary assimilation, I needed to go to those who practiced more than I, not the same and certainly not less.

In twenty years, eight cities, and half a dozen countries, no Lubavitch Rabbi has ever asked me to do anything I didn't want to do or acted otherwise "pushy" towards me. I affiliate with Lubavitch because I agree with their fundamental goal: Judaism for all Jews. The purpose of this goal is to enrich Jewish lives in this world to prepare for the World to Come. This they accomplish through a program of education and joyful celebration. How could any decent Jew argue with that?


by Bob Singer

"It's the best thing I ever did," said Mitch Rozen after returning home to Sioux City, Iowa, having spent ten days studying at Hadar HaTorah Yeshiva in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Rozen, a 28-year-old Iowa State University engineering student studied Torah, Mishna, and Jewish living through a Lubavitch of Iowa scholarship. "Until the moment I arrived at the winter Yeshivacation program in Crown Heights, I kept asking myself what am I getting into," Rozen said. "Especially since my Jewish experiences in Iowa prior to going to yeshiva had been pretty negative."

In Brooklyn, Rozen was happy to be part of an experience that changed his views and religious practice. The Jewish experience Rozen enjoyed in Crown Heights was different from anything he had ever experienced before. "In Crown Heights there's a warmth and affection for the Jewish people. It's so deep that you feel it. It engulfs you." The kosher food was great, says Rozen, and he was particularly amazed that every car in Crown Heights had a Chanuka menora on the roof!

At yeshiva, there were eight students in Rozen's class. In all, there were thirty students from the United States, Canada, Argentina and Columbia. "We learned Jewish living according to the 613 laws of the Torah. It was fundamental Judaism the way it's been practiced for over 3,000 years," Rozen said. "They taught us why things are done the way they are. There is a reason for every action. In the 'outside' world in Iowa, everyone tries to tailor Judaism to fit the outside world. In Crown Heights, they tailor the world to fit Judaism."

After just ten days at Hadar HaTorah Yeshiva, Rozen says he now has a reference point on how to conduct his life. The engineering student said, "Just like a cruise missile has a gyroscope that locks onto a constellation that doesn't move, I have a Crown Heights as a reference now. It is Torah, true Judaism, without misconception or delusions about it."

After rejecting Jewish religious practices before his Yeshivacation experience, Rozen is now becoming more observant. He urges other Jewish young adults to experience what he did in Brooklyn, "to be able to experience Judaism as an environment--not just a religion," he said. In New York there's a social kinship you have with the people around you. "It's a warmth and intimacy you don't feel anywhere else."

Rozen refers to the Jewish community in Crown Heights as a flower growing out of the pavement while surrounding communities are crumbling. "There's no reason why a piece of Crown Heights can't live in other places in the country," he said.


A Call To Action

Participate in Sanctifying the Moon

"One of the areas in which additional attention is necessary is Kiddush HaLevana--the Sanctification of the Moon. This practice is intrinsically related to the Redemption, indeed, the renewal of the moon is used a s a metaphor for the renewal of the Jewish people in this era."

(The Rebbe 4 Marcheshvan, 5752)

See "From the Director" below for details on how to participate in this special mitzva.

The Rebbe Writes

27 Shevat, 5721 [1961]

I received your letter of the 20th of Shevat, in which you bring to my attention the problem of a certain businessman in your community, who is generally an observant Jew, but is involved in a business which makes it difficult for him to observe Shabbat, but now a suggestion was made to him to enter another field in which he could avoid the desecration of Shabbat.

It is clear to the unbiased mind, and even to plain common sense, that the Almighty, Who is the Giver of the Torah and mitzvot, is also the Creator and Master of the world, Whose benevolent Providence extends to everyone individually.

Therefore, when G-d commanded us to live in the way of the Torah and mitzvot, He has also given us the ability to live accordingly under all circumstances, and He has given us also the power to overcome any obstacles. It is only a matter of will and determination on the part of every Jew, since, potentially, he has the fullest capacity to live up to the will and the commandments of G-d, the Creator and Master of the world.

It is also obvious that this is the only way for a Jew to be truly happy, materially and spiritually. It is only because G-d is infinitely merciful and patient that He does not immediately impose the consequences of any breach of His commandments, in order to permit the individual to mend his ways.

It is also equally obvious that no lasting good can come from breaking G-d's laws, especially such a fundamental law as Shabbat observance, for the important thing is not how much money a person earns, but that he should be able to spend it in good health and on happy things, which are entirely in the hands of G-d.

In view of the above, it is quite clear what the attitude of the businessman in question should be, even if there were no other immediate business propositions. For it is necessary, without delay, to give up the kind of business which interferes with Shabbat observance, with the full confidence that He who feeds and sustains three billion people and all living things will also be able to take care of the individual and his family and provide him with a source of parnasa [livelihood] which should not be in conflict with the Will of G-d.

I trust you will convey the above to the gentleman in question, as well as to others who might be in a similar position.


25th of Elul, 5724 [1964]

I received your letter of the 16th of Elul.

I believe I have already written to you before that both in regard to efforts to influence others, and also to help oneself, it is good to consult with G-d-fearing friends, especially such as have had experience in such matters.

With regard to your question about free will, the Rambam explains it at length in the Laws of Teshuva, chs. 5 and 6.

The meaning of free will is simply that a person is quite free to act, speak and think, and always has a free choice to do so either to the good, or otherwise. Thus, it is also emphasized in the Torah, "Behold I have given you etc., choose life."

There is no contradiction between human free choice and Divine knowledge for the opposite of free choice is not knowledge but compulsion.

In other words, Divine Knowledge in no way affects human freedom, and does not compel. One of the illustrations which will make it easier to understand this subject is that of a person who is clairvoyant and could foretell events in the future, or a psychologist who knows a friend very well and could foretell his reactions, although limited to a short period of time.

Clearly such foreknowledge does not affect the events and actions that come to pass. But G-d is unlimited in time and knowledge, and His knowledge extends to all times and places, but never affects freedom of man's actions.

P.S. In reply to your questions-

It is to be expected that the learning of Torah in all its parts (whether Nigle or Chasidut) is in a way that at the beginning, the understanding of the topics is necessarily imperfect, sketchy and superficial, but as one continues to study the Torah, one understands a little more and a little deeper every time. This is also the case with learning Chumash, Talmud, etc.

With regard to the question of where to continue your studies after graduation (in a year's time, I believe?) you should visit those yeshivot where Torah study is coupled with Yirat Shamayim [fear/awe of Heaven] (In accordance with the commandments of our Sages, Shabbat 31...), and select the one which will appeal to you most, in accordance with the instructions of our Sages "sheliboi chofetz [which the heart desires]....


What's New

COLLEGIATE SHABBATON

An International Jewish Leadership Conference of University Students will be taking place over the weekend of October 25 - 27. Organized by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries on college campuses throughout North America, the Shabbaton will be held in Crown Heights and students will be housed with families in the Lubavitch community. This special weekend is open to all college and university students. For more information contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch representative.

HUNGARIAN PRAYER BOOK

The first Jewish prayer book to be published in Hungary in over six decades is being used in synagogues across the country and can even be purchased in local bookstores. Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Hungary translated the prayers into modern Hungarian and added explanatory footnotes as well as relevant laws and customs. The prayerbook, which is available throughout Hungary, was published by Chabad-Lubavitch of Hungary, in conjunction with the Jewish Community there.


A Word from the Director

On Shabbat when the Torah portion of Noach is read, five years ago, the Rebbe spoke about the importance of saying the prayers for the sanctification of the moon--Kiddush HaLevana, allowing that perhaps the reason this mitzva has not been meticulously observed recently is because the prayer must be recited outside and people feel uncomfortable about it.

However, as the Rebbe expressed so many times, we are literally on the threshold of the Redemption. Now is the time to brush up on any observances that were possibly neglected in the past, as a way of further preparing ourselves for the imminent revelation of Moshiach.

It is customary to recite Kiddush Levana together with as many people as possible, but preferably with at least one other person.

In most prayer books, the prayers for the Sanctification of the Moon are found after the evening service or after the Havdala service of Saturday night.

The blessing may be recited only until the conclusion of the fifteenth day after the rebirth of the moon. According to Kabala, the blessing should not be recited before he seventh day after the rebirth of the moon.

The blessing should be recited under the open skies, but may not be recited when the moon is covered with clouds.

It is preferably to recite the blessing on Saturday night, while one is still in festive clothing.

The ceremony of the Sanctification of the Moon includes the following verse from Song of Songs: The voice of my beloved! Here he comes, leaping over the mountains, skipping over the hills." On this verse, the Yalkut Shimoni comments: "the voice of my beloved'--This refers to Moshiach. He comes and tells Israel, `You will be redeemed this month.' "

May Moshiach leap over any and all obstacles that hold back the Redemption and allow this promise to be realized in the present month.


Thoughts that Count

"And from the animals which were not clean [kosher]." (Gen. 7:8)

The Talmud (Pesachim 3a) asks why the Torah uses the longer expression "which were not clean" (three words in Hebrew) instead of the briefer word "ha'tameah"-- "unclean" (only one word in Hebrew). The Talmud answers that the Torah uses additional words to teach us the eternal lesson that we should always try to express ourselves in decent language, even if it means using extra words.

"They and all the animals [were in the Ark]." (Gen. 7:14)

The prophet Isaiah includes in the miraculous events of the days of Moshiach that "the wolf will dwell together with the lamb" (11:6). This was also experienced in the days of Noach. What, then, is so unique about the days of Moshiach? In the time of Noach, the whole world was in danger of destruction and annihilation. In such a situation it is natural for enemies to become friends and live together. All had the common goal of survival and there was no time for fighting. In the days of Moshiach, there will no longer be any war and there will be an abundance of goodness. Unfortunately, in prosperous and tranquil times, people find time for strife and fighting. Isaiah therefore foretells the miracle that will occur in the days of Moshiach, when everyone will have an abundance of good: even then there will be absolute peace and the wolf and lamb will abide together.

"Only Noach survived." (Gen. 7:23)

Why is he described here as "only Noach"? What happened to the previous titles the Torah gives him--"righteous," "perfect," etc.? The Zohar says that Noach sinned by not praying that his generation be saved, unlike Avraham and Moshe. Moshe was even ready to give up his own life if G-d would not forgive His people, Noach was concerned only that his own family be saved. Since Noach did not ultimately act as a truly righteous man by concerning himself with others, he was considered in the final analysis "only Noach"--just a simple person shorn of all his titles and praises.

"And they said 'Let us build for ourselves a city and tower with its top in the heavens.'" (Gen. 11:4)

Rashi explains that they planned to "wage war against G-d." But how did they think they could reach the heavens? Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeschutz (1690-1764), renowned Torah scholar, writer and Rabbi of Prague and Hamburg, answers that they were aware of the laws of gravity. Their plan was to build a tower so high that it would surpass the earth's gravitational pull. They could then ascend to the top of the tower where they would become weightless, enabling them to fly up into the heavens where they imagined they could confront G-d!

(Evidently Newton's Law of Gravity and the space program have been in the Torah for thousands of years.)

Reprinted from Vedibarta Bam, compiled by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

The following story was recorded by the Chasid, Reb Dov Zev who witnessed the events with his own eyes.

More than a hundred years ago there lived a Chasid by the name of Reb Chaim Yehoshua. He had lived to the ripe age of eighty-seven, but although he was not ill, he had a feeling that his days were drawing to a close. He summoned the elders of the town to his bedside and in addition, a visiting emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Dov Zev.

"I have an important request to make of you," he said, "but before I do, I want to tell you about something that happened to me many years ago. Many years ago, I spent Chanuka at the court of the Tzemach Tzedek [the third Lubavitcher Rebbe]. During the course of the holiday, he spoke about the self-sacrifice of the Maccabees in sanctifying the Name of G-d. The words of the Rebbe made an enormous impression on me.

"After the holiday ended I returned to our farm. Our father, who was a Chasid of the Alter Rebbe and the Mittler Rebbe after him had instilled in his children a particular devotion to the mitzva of hospitality, so when two frozen strangers appeared on our doorstep one cold snowy night, we, of course, invited them in and served them a warm, hearty meal.

"I had retired to my own room when I heard the faintest whining sound. I thought it was a cat and I listened carefully, straining my ears to make out its source. As I followed the sound, it became obvious that it was not a cat, but a child who was crying. I approached the spot from where the cry came and to my utter shock, there in the wagon of the two strangers lay two small children, one sleeping and the other crying, both tied hand and foot. I knew at once that they were victims of kidnappers, or "chappers," as they were known at the time. For then was the height of the terror of child-kidnapping for the Czar's army. The unfortunates were stolen from the bosom of their families, never to be seen again, to serve in the army for twenty years and more.

"I took the two into my home and fed them and put them into a warm bed. My brother confronted the kidnappers and in a frenzy of anger threatened to give them a beating they would never forget. They, for their part, feigned innocence. No, they were the wronged ones, they claimed. They concocted a story about the children being mentally ill and being taken to a famous doctor, but when they saw that we wouldn't buy their ridiculous story, they disappeared as fast as their horses could gallop.

"When my brother next visited the Rebbe, he blessed us all and told us to hide the children for a full year before returning them to their families, and this we did. The event inspired in me a great desire to continue in this mitzva of redeeming captives, and for a large part of every year I traveled to different parts of the region, seeking out these children, who were called Cantonists, and saving them.

"I continued this work for seven years, until I fell into a trap and almost lost my life. I traveled to the Rebbe and he gave me a blessing for long life and promised me that when it came my time to leave this world, I would be 'with him in his abode.' And this leads me to tell you why I have summoned all of you here today. I feel sure that my life is about to end, and I am asking you to gather a minyan at my grave side and say these words, 'Reb Menachem Mendel, son-in-law of Reb Dov Ber and grandson of Reb Shneur Zalman! Your servant Chaim Yehoshua ben Esther is dead. Before his passing, he appointed us to inform you of this and to remind you that you promised him, that because of his mitzva of ransoming captives, he would be with you, in your abode.' "

The Chasidim agreed to carry out his wish, and the following day, Reb Chaim Yehoshua recited Shema Yisrael, and returned his soul to its Maker. That same day, a minyan surrounded his grave and said the words he had requested of them, reminding the Rebbe of his promise of long ago.


Moshiach Matters

In the days of Moshiach, the body too will change. It will be like the body of Adam before the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, clear of any evil. As the Midrash states, "His heel threw a shadow on the orb of the sun." That is to say, his body was nullified to the Divine Will even more than was the inanimate sun.

(Derech Chaim)


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