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November 29, 1996 - 18 Kislev 5757

445: Vayishlach

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  444: Vayetze446: Vayeishev  

The Numbers 250-200  |  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

The Numbers 250-200

Numbers are a part of our lives. From the time we're one or two years old we begin to learn about them: "You may have three cookies," or "Eat two more bites and then you can have dessert" are statements we all remember.

As we get older, numbers take on a new importance in our lives. Numbers describe grade levels in school and marks on exams. They are used to announce game scores, whether kick ball or the World Series. We use numbers to establish quantities of salaries and savings in IRA's. Numbers mark the passage of time surrounding anniversaries and birthdays.

Two hundred and fifty years ago this year, in a celestial encounter, the Baal Shem Tov (founder of Chasidism) asked Moshiach, "When will the master come?" Moshiach answered him: "When your wellsprings [teachings] will be spread to the outside ."

Fifty years later -- 200 years ago -- Rabbi Shneur Zalman, one of the foremost proponents and expounders of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings, published the Tanya, the basic book of Chabad Chasidism.

Tanya maps out the relationship between man and G-d and is based on the words, "The thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it." The "thing" discussed in Tanya, is how a person can create his life, change himself and direct his experience, his feelings, and his thoughts toward ever higher levels.

The 19th of this Hebrew month of Kislev is celebrated by Chasidim as the New Year of Chasidism. It is the anniversary of the release of Rabbi Shneur Zalman from imprisonment after opponents of the Chasidic movement falsely accused him of treasonous acts. His release marked the resumption of the spreading of Chasidic teaching with new vigor. It is said that the 53 days of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's imprisonment correspond to the 53 chapters of Tanya.

In 1984 the Rebbe asked that the Tanya be printed in every city in the entire world where there is even one Jew.

The Rebbe explained, "Since in the future Redemption not a single Jew will remain in exile, it is clear that the redemption of every individual Jew has a bearing on the Redemption of the entire House of Israel. It is thus our duty to work with every Jew to ensure that he will be ready for the Redemption.

"This is accomplished by disseminating the Torah, especially its innermost and mystical dimension, wherever Jews are to be found, and wherever even only one single Jew is to be found. Therefore... the Tanya should be printed everywhere...."

Since the Rebbe initiated the campaign to print the Tanya world-wide, over 4,000 editions in large cities, small towns, villages and army installations in more than 100 countries on all seven continents have been printed. Most recently, the ancient city of Charan in Turkey was visited by a private jet carrying a mobile print shop and a Tanya was printed there.

What is the point of all these statistics? Is this merely a sophisticated numbers game?

The Rebbe writes in his introduction to the English translation of Tanya, "Chasidic philosophy in general, and Chabad Chasidic philosophy in particular, is an all-embracing world outlook and way of life which sees the Jew's central purpose a s [being] the unifying link between the Creator and Creation. The Jew is a creature of "heaven" and of "earth," of a heavenly Divine soul which is truly a part of G-dliness clothed in an earthly vessel constituted of a physical body and an animal soul."

The purpose, writes the Rebbe, is to "realize the transcendency and unity of his nature, and of the world in which he lives, within the absolute Unity of G-d."

Tanya teaches us to recognize the different forces at work in our lives and to rise above the inner conflicts between our G-dly components and our earthly parts. When we do so we find an inner harmony which puts us in touch with the Unity of G-d.

In simple terms, ultimately all the numbers in the world, whether added, subtracted, multiplied, divided, or extrapolated, equal ONE -- the unity of all of creation with G-d, which will be realized when Moshiach comes, may it happen imminently.

P. S. You can subscribe to receive the Daily Portion of the Tanya via e-mail by writing to: listserv@chabad.org and in the subject or text - put in the word "Tanya."


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Vayishlach, begins: "Yaakov sent angels before him to greet Esav, his brother." The message Yaakov entrusted these angels to convey was "Im Lavan garti --- With Lavan I have sojourned." In these words Yaakov summed up the approach he had taken toward Lavan throughout his years in Charan: "garti --- I have sojourned," i.e., I was only a temporary visitor and never fully at ease.

To Yaakov, the mundane affairs of this world were extraneous, removed from his true self and concerns. In Lavan's household Yaakov was like a ger --- a stranger who was only passing through. His interest did not lie in the pursuit of wealth or material riches. Rather, Yaakov's true "home" was in the realm of the soul, in Torah and mitzvot. Yaakov only felt himself at home, truly at ease and comfortable, when he was involved in the service of G-d.

The Torah states, "He built himself a house, and for his cattle he made sukkot (booths)." For "himself," his true self, Yaakov built a "house" --- a permanent dwelling. For his "cattle," his material possessions, Yaakov built "booths" --- assigning them only marginal importance, like a sukka that is designed only for temporary residence.

In this light, we may better understand the explanation of Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, on the verse "With Lavan I have sojourned": "And the 613 (taryag) commandments I observed."

The word for sojourned, garti, consists of the same letters as the sum of the Torah's commandments, 613. Yaakov was informing Esav that despite his extended stay in Lavan's household he managed to keep all of the Torah's mitzvot. How? By relating to the physical world and to Lavan as being only temporal and transient.


The Maggid of Mezeritch used to say: "At home, it is different." A person's home is his castle; a home must contain all the amenities of life. When a person travels, however, it is not so important if his temporary dwelling is furnished beautifully, for the time spent there is only minimal.

The Jewish people in exile is only "on the road." We are not yet in our true home; rather, we are more like strangers on a temporary visit to a foreign land. Our entire experience in exile is expressed in Yaakov's message to Esav: "garti --- I am only a sojourner."

The road we are on is the road to the Final Redemption, which, for the Jew, represents true life. In the Days of Moshiach, we will finally be at "home," in our permanent dwelling, engaged in our real task of serving G-d. Indeed, by relating to the physical world and its affairs with this in mind we hasten the Redemption, may it happen immediately.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot vol. 1


A Slice of Life

Reb Mordechai Gurary
by Tzippy Robinson

The early part of the twentieth century was a turbulent time for the Jews. The terror of the Czarist regime gave way to the oppression of Communism, which considered the practice of Judaism to be a crime worthy of severe punishment. Yet despite the obvious danger, many Jews remained steadfast in their observance of Torah and mitzvot. One such Jew was a chasid by the name of Reb Mordechai Gurary.

Reb Mordechai lived in the town of Dnieprepetrovsk, now known as Yeketrinislav. He was very close to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the father of the Rebbe. Their relationship was that of a father to a son, to such an extent that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak wanted to pay for Reb Mordechai's wedding.

The close relationship between Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Reb Mordechai was exemplified one Simchat Torah. The Chasidim had all gathered in Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's shul to sing and dance and rejoice with the Torah. They all watched as Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Reb Mordechai danced and danced and together for a long time. When other Chasidim wanted to join the circle of two, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak made it clear that it was to be just Reb Mordechai and himself.

Reb Mordechai was known throughout the Chasidic community as a very wise and G-d fearing man with an unflinching commitment to the Torah. Even today there are elder Chasidim who can still recall Reb Mordechai's greatness. One such chasid once related to Reb Mordechai's son how Reb Mordechai was called up to read the Torah one Shabbat in shul. He read with such feeling and such heart that the entire congregation was deeply moved. The chasid told Reb Mordechai's son that to this day he can still remember clearly the Torah reading of Reb Mordechai.

Reb Mordechai was well-versed in secular subjects as well. He spoke eight languages fluently, and he chose to enter the medical profession. This was difficult because a Jew studying in a Russian university at that time had to be very careful to hide his observance from university officials and other students. However this had no effect on Reb Mordechai's performance of the mitzvot. Once during a Jewish holiday on which writing is not allowed, Reb Mordechai was required to attend class. It so happened that he was called up to the blackboard to solve a problem. At the thought of having to desecrate the holiday, Reb Mordechai fainted right then and there in the classroom.

During his residency, Reb Mordechai was sent to a collective village to administer treatment to the people who lived there. He took this opportunity, despite the risk, to reach out to the Jewish residents of the village, making sure they had tefilin, mezuzot, and prayer books. Reb Mordechai treated the body and the soul as well.

As Chanuka neared, Reb Mordechai pondered over the question of how to kindle the Chanuka lights without attracting the attention of the local authorities. He thought up a plan. He went out alone to an empty field late at night when everyone else was asleep, and standing on the snow covered ground in the freezing cold, he joyously performed the mitzva of lighting the Chanuka menora. Unfortunately, a government inspector came through the village one night of Chanuka, and he spotted some strange lights in a field. Looking closer, he realized what it was, and traced the menora back to Reb Mordechai. Reb Mordechai was sent even further away to continue his medical training elsewhere.

Reb Mordechai passed away in 1936, shortly before the birth of his first child, who was named Mordechai after his righteous father.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, very distraught, insisted on choosing a burial plot for Reb Mordechai. Rebbetzin Chana, the wife of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, told Reb Mordechai's son of the heartfelt eulogy her husband gave for Reb Mordechai, exhorting his students to learn from the example of this great man.

A few years later Reb Mordechai's widow brought her three-year-old son Mordechai to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's house. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak picked up the little boy, who was wearing heavy, muddy boots, and stood him up on a table that was covered with a beautiful white tablecloth. His wife expressed mild concern for the state of her tablecloth. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak replied that "it honored the tablecloth to have the son of this man stand on it."

Later, when Reb Mordechai's son was studying in a yeshiva in France, he received a letter from the Rebbe. The Rebbe's request: to please send the Rebbe a picture of his late father, Reb Mordechai.


A Call To Action

Get Ready!

"The mystical dimension of Torah, was revealed precisely in these last generations, as the footsteps of Moshiach are approaching... therefore, one should prepare oneself for the forthcoming Redemption by studying the mystical dimension, specifically as elucidated by Chabad Chasidic philosophy."

(The Rebbe, 19 Kislev, 5748)

The study of Chasidic philosophy is more accessible than you might think. The internet website for Chabad-Lubavitch is www.chabad.org. Many books, such as Toward a Meaningful Life (based on the Rebbe's teachings) or The Long Shorter Way (based on Tanya) are available at or through major bookstores. Many Chabad-Lubavitch Centers have pre- recorded classes via telephone as well as classes on cassette tapes. And, of course, they all offer classes in various locations. So, get ready for Moshiach by studying the mystical dimension of the Torah.


The Rebbe Writes

10th of Kislev, 5728 [1967]

I was pleased to receive your communication regarding the forthcoming celebration of the 25 years of dedicated service by your esteemed and distinguished Rabbi, David B. Hollander.

It is indeed gratifying to note the esteem and affection which your Rabbi enjoys in your congregation, to which the Torah convocation bears witness. If such an attitude on the part of the lay leadership and general membership towards their Rabbi and spiritual leader has always been of paramount importance, it is particularly indispensable in this day and age of perplexity. For, the true spiritual leader who lives and acts by his convictions and principles has enough of a hard to time to withstand the pressures from outside. It is therefore primarily his own congregation and baalei batim [supporters] that can and must afford him the support and encouragement so vitally necessary for accomplishing his difficult tasks.

In this connection I wish to make mention also that this celebration is taking place in the week of the historic 19th of Kislev, marking the victory of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, and founder of Chabad, over his many adversaries.

Of his triumph, which was the triumph of Chasidut in general, the Alter Rebbe said that it came precisely as he was reciting the verse "G-d has redeemed my soul in peace" (Ps. 55:19), emphasizing that it came about in such a way that his adversaries made peace with him, finally recognizing the truth.

In the spirit of the 19th of Kislev, I hope and pray that such will also be the triumph of the Torah cause of which your esteemed Rabbi has been such a valiant champion.

I extend my felicitations and prayerful wishes to your distinguished Rabbi and to the esteemed officers and members and guests gathered for the occasion. May the occasion be a source of inspiration to each and every one of you, as well as a source of G-d's blessings in a generous measure, materially and spiritually.


20th of Kislev, 5719

Although I have not heard from you since you left, nevertheless I have inquired about you and was pleased to receive indirect regards from you that all is well with you and your wife.

I trust you duly received my letter and good wishes for the New Year.

Yesterday we celebrated Yud-Tes Kislev, the Redemption of the Old Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], the Founder of Chabad, and together with him the triumph of all matters of Chabad. The Day inspires every one of us to greater efforts in living up to the concepts of Chabad, the basis of which is the love of G-d, the love of the Torah, and the love of our fellow Jews, all of which is truly one. This is connected with the basic teachings of Chabad, requiring everyone of us to do our utmost to bring our fellow-Jews closer to G-d and to the Torah and mitzvot, in their purest form, without compromise or concession, though the approach to each individual may differ in accordance with his spiritual state and background.

One cannot expect a Jew who has drifted away from the Jewish way of life to transform himself suddenly, and it is necessary to bring him closer to G-d in stages, yet we have to present to him the true aspects of our Torah and mitzvot, and not in any diluted form. It is only then that the Jew is responsive to the truth, as is the well- known saying of the Old Rebbe, the Founder of Chabad, that "No Jew wishes, nor can he, sever himself from G-d."

The 19th of Kislev, therefore, reminds us every year of these basic principles, and inspires us toward their fulfillment.

I knew your late father, of blessed memory, and I also had the opportunity to meet later with you and your wife when you visited here. My personal knowledge of the members of your family gives me every confidence that every one of you will do your utmost to work for the spreading of the Torah and mitzvot in your community, in the spirit of the Founder of Chabad, and his teachings. The work of Chabad in every field of Jewish endeavor has always been on a non-party basis and not confined to any particular group, but embraces all our fellow Jews. It is because of this that it has remained free from outside influences and pressure, and it is because of this that it has succeeded so well, with the help of G-d....

Wishing you and your wife and all the members of your family an inspiring Chanuka,


What's New

BE A PART OF IT!

On December 4th "The Festival of Light!" will be featured on every browser in the world. Bookmark this site festival.chabad.org and you will join millions of people around the world as they join in "lighting the world" and playing Cyberdreidel plus lots more.

If you are in New York be a part of the celebrations this Chanuka at the lighting of the World's Largest Chanuka Menora on Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Ninth Street in New York City. The Menora will be lit each evening from Dec. 5 - 12 at 5:30 p.m., with the exceptions being on Friday at 3:38 p.m. and on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. Sunday's festivities include free dreidels for the kids and hot latkas for everyone. For more information call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 778-6000. Call your local Chabad Lubavitch Center for the candle-lighting closest to you.

REJOICE FOR THE REDEMPTION

The national headquarters of the Lubavitch Women's Organization is planning a conference for women devoted to learning more about Moshiach and the Redemption. The conference will take place over the weekend of December 5-7. The program features noted scholars and lecturers from around the world. Entitled, Rejoice for the Redemption, the conference is being held in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and includes home hospitality for Shabbat with Lubavitcher families in the community. The final session of t he conference will be held in Manhattan. For more info call LWO at (718) 493-1773.


A Word from the Director

This Shabbat is the 19th of Kislev, the day of liberation of the founder of Chabad Chasidut, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, from imprisonment on false charges of anti-government activities.

In a well-known letter written upon his release, Rabbi Shneur Zalman declared that the happy tidings of his liberation came to him when he was reading the verse (Ps. 55:19): "G-d has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle against me, for m any were with me."

That Rabbi Shneur Zalman was informed of his release precisely at that moment when he was reading that verse is an act of Divine Providence. And it carries a message for every one of us.

Certainly, everyone is in need of a personal liberation from all of the difficulties and hindrances one encounters in daily life, especially since these obstacles often hamper the attainment of both material and spiritual goals and endeavors. Jewish teachings explain that on the anniversary of a special day, the same spiritual energy that was present on that day is once more brought into the world.

Thus, this year, on the 19th of Kislev, the energy that can bring us the ability to experience personal liberation from difficulties and hindrances to material and spiritual endeavors is invested into the world. We can hook into that energy by being aware of it and by using the day for positive actions and a heightened emphasis on Torah study and mitzvot observance. And what better day to do this than the holy Sabbath!

When someone experiences a personal liberation, he helps bring liberation and redemption to our entire people and to the whole world. May we all experience personal redemptions this Shabbat culminating in ultimate and Final Redemption that we are all preparing for, with the revelation of Moshiach.


Thoughts that Count

We came to your brother Esav, and moreover he is heading toward you with an army of 400 men (Gen. 32:7)

Esav kept one mitzva, that of honoring one's father. He knew that his father, Yitzchak, would be angry at him for killing his brother Yaakov. Therefore, Esav brought a large crowd with him to meet Yaakov so that he would be able to tell his father, "My friends were so angry at Yaakov for what he did to me, that when they saw him, they overpowered me and I couldn't prevent them from killing Yaakov."

(R. Yonasan Eibeschitz)

Rescue me I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav (Gen. 32:12)

Yaakov specified "the hand of Esav," even though he only had one brother. Yaakov was afraid of two things, the first being that Esav would harm him physically, the second being that Esav would become friendly with Yaakov's family, which would harm them spiritually. "The hand of my brother" refers to a physical attack, and "the hand of Esav" refers to a spiritual attack.

(Rabbi S.P. Bogomilsky)

And Esav said, "I have a lot," and Yaakov said, "Please accept my gift...because I have everything." (Gen. 33:9-11)

Esav said, "I have a lot," while Yaakov said, "I have everything." Yaakov was a righteous person and it is the nature of a righteous person to be satisfied with his lot. Esav was wicked, and it is the nature of the wicked never to be content and always to want more.

(Klei Yakar)

I crossed the Jordan with only my staff (Gen. 32:11)

The stick that Yaakov referred to is spoken of again and again in Jewish history. It later belonged to Yehuda, and then to Moshe and Aharon in Egypt. It was later used by King David, and handed down from king to king until the Holy Temple was destroyed. When the Redemption comes, the stick will be given to Moshiach.

(Yalkut Shimoni)

Reprinted from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

The black carriage was already waiting. Inside the house, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad Chasidic movement, made final preparations before his arrest and imprisonment.

Rabbi Yisrael Kazik, the Rebbe's brother-in-law, managed to exchange a few words with him. "What shall be done?" he asked worriedly. "Travel to Petersburg," the Rebbe answered, "immediately!"

The officer in charge ordered the armed police to surround the Rebbe, who was making his way toward the carriage. The black carriage drove off, leaving the distraught Chasidim behind.

The charges brought against the Rebbe were extremely serious. The government informants claimed that the money the Rebbe sent to Israel in order to strengthen Jewish settlements was actually supporting the Turks, who were, at the time, at war with Russia.

The Rebbe was brought to the prison, but not one chasid knew his whereabouts. There were many prisons in Russia, and it would be dangerous to search through them. The elder Chasidim instructed everyone to pray, and they appointed a committee to be in charge in the meantime.

The Rebbe's brother-in-law didn't waste a minute. Rabbi Yisrael didn't even take time to change out of his Chasidic garb, which he knew could cause him some difficulty in the capital city. As he didn't even have the proper travelling documents with him, which could lead to his own arrest, he borrowed the documents of another chasid, and left.

Meanwhile, in a prison in Petersburg, the Rebbe was interrogated for many hours. His interrogators were impressed by his strength of character and integrity. Deep down they knew that the accusations against the Rebbe were false, but they were bound by the law that did not allow for his release without an investigation.

One day, one of the officers said to the Rebbe, "I would like to do you a favor. What can I do for you?"

The Rebbe requested that his family be informed that he was alive and that he hoped that G-d would soon make his innocence known. The officer readily agreed to his request. He asked, however, how he would be able to contact someone from the Rebbe's family as he didn't know them.

"Before I was brought here," the Rebbe told the guard, "I instructed my brother-in-law, Reb Yisrael Kazik, to travel to Petersburg. He is wearing the traditional Chasidic garb, and he is probably wandering near a prison."

After searching for some time, the guard noticed a Jew who fit the Rebbe's description. When the guard was sure no one was looking, he motioned to the Jew to come over to him. When he asked the Jew, who was Reb Yisrael Kazik, to identify himself, Reb Yisrael identified himself with the name on the documents he had borrowed. The guard accused him of lying and left.

Reb Yisrael figured that the officer wanted to give him a message. After consulting with other Chasidim, he continued to wander through Petersburg in case the guard returned. The guard told the Rebbe of his meeting with a Jew who fit the description, but whose name was not Yisrael Kazik. The Rebbe told the guard to try once more.

The officer again met Reb Yisrael, who identified himself as such. Without exchanging another word, the guard began to walk away, and Reb Yisrael followed him discreetly. They arrived at the guard's home. The guard went inside, and while Reb Yisrael stood outside and wondered what to do next, a watermelon fell out of a window of the house. Reb Yisrael understood that it was for him, and he quickly picked it up and carried it away.

He brought it home, and in the presence of the elder Chasidim, opened it carefully. Inside the watermelon was a note that read, "Hear O Israel the Lord our G-d the Lord is One." The Rebbe was alive! But they still didn't know where he was being held.

Meanwhile, the Rebbe's health was in danger, because he would not eat the prison food. The warden offered to obtain kosher food for the Rebbe and went to Reb Mordechai of Lipeli, and asked him to prepare kosher food for a Jewish prisoner. Reb Mordechai sensed that this prisoner was the Rebbe, and on the bottom of one of the jars he hid a note that said, "Who is the one eating this, and where is he found?"

The jar was returned, and under a bit of food was a small note written in the Rebbe's handwriting. The Rebbe informed the Chasidim of his situation and where he was being held. The news quickly spread throughout Russia, "The Rebbe is alive and well!"

Eventually the Rebbe was exonerated of all charges and released on the nineteenth of Kislev, which is celebrated as the Festival of Redemption, when the Chasidic movement and the right to disseminate Chasidic philosophy triumphed.


Moshiach Matters

In these times, when the approaching footsteps of Moshiach are close upon us, the principle service of G-d is the service of charity, as our Sages taught, "Israel will be redeemed only by virtue of charity." ...The way to cleave to the Divine Presence in our times is through the practice of charity.

(Rabbi Shneur Zalman, based on Tanya-Iggeret HaKodesh)


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