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March 7, 1997 - 28 Adar I 5757

459: Vyakhel

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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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

Approximately one month ago (Feb. 5, 1997), the Israeli newspaper, Maariv, contained the following editorial: "The initial report was low-key. 'Two cobra helicopters have apparently collided in mid-air,' said the report. It later became clear that two 'Yasur' helicopters were involved, and reports spoke of twenty casualties. Then thirty. And fifty. And seventy, and more.

"And you then try to turn that horrible number into something comprehensible, tangible. You search for a name, a face, perhaps an acquaintance. You search for all those things you do not want to find.

"And you always do. Because all those who are called the best of our boys are the best of our children. This night you searched for them. First, your own children. Afterwards your friends, and then their friends, and their children, and the friends of their children. An entire nation trembling by the phone. These are the moments when Israel is not a nation. It is a shared home.

"During this bleak night, between the thunder and lighting and snow storms, during this foggy night, we skipped a number of heartbeats. During this morose and bitter night, in which all has been forgotten, we returned -- for a single moment -- to that which we truly are: one people."

Why? Why are we all so busy pointing fingers and calling everyone else divisive that we don't remember that we are a whole, not a fraction? Why is it that it seems only when tragedies strike are the Jewish people united? Why is it that calamities make us realize that we are all from one shared home, the House of Jacob, that we are all one people -- Am Yisrael -- the nation of Israel?

It hurts!

We don't have to wait for tragedies. We're all one family, and families share the good times as well as the bad times. We share simchas as well as suffering.

Tevya might have asked, "Is this part of G-d's vast eternal plan?" And the resounding answer would have to be, "NO!"

G-d's vast eternal plan, as explained in Jewish mysticism, is that the purpose of the soul's descent to earth is to reveal the harmony that is inherent in the created world, beginning with the small world, a person -- a creature comprised of a body and soul, and culminating in harmony within families, communities, and ultimately the universe in the Messianic Era.

Everywhere around us, now more than ever, we see the unity and harmony of the world, how all of creation is truly one and acts and works together as one force. The unity of the world is being revealed on a high-tech level as well as in nature: a leaf falling from a tree in the United States can cause a wind current in Japan.

So, how do we reveal the harmony inherent in each one of us -- each microcosm of the world?

Jewish mysticism goes on to explain that inner, personal peace and harmony can be achieved only through the supremacy of the soul over the body, since in the nature and scheme of things, the body can be made to submit to the soul -- willingly, and even eagerly, but not vice versa. It also explains that this process begins with anything but the seemingly mystical or spiritual. It begins by doing practical mitzvot.

And what better mitzvot to begin with than those between one person and another. Let's all try, as one happy family, to be nice to each other and to respect each other. Let's do "easy" mitzvot, like greeting everyone pleasantly, being the first to say "hello," visiting sick friends, loving a fellow Jew (as we love ourselves). As all of us siblings begin treating each other properly, we have an added right to demand of our Father that He bring the long-awaited peace and harmony to the entire world with the revelation of Moshiach, may it happen now.

Living with the Rebbe

In the beginning of this week's portion, Vayakhel, Moshe relates G-d's command to the Jewish people: "Six days shall work be done, and the seventh day shall be holy, a Sabbath of rest to G-d."

In order to observe Shabbat properly, in accordance with G-d's command, the groundwork must first be laid by the six days of the work week: "Six days shall work be done."

Significantly, the commandment is not "Six days shall you do work." The verse does not instruct us to toil laboriously. "Six days shall work be done" -- as if the work is being done by itself. You needn't exert undue effort or invest too much of your energy, the Torah tells us. Rather, your work will be accomplished with a minimal amount of exertion.

This is a special blessing which G-d has bestowed on the Jewish people. Our Sages state, "When Israel does the work of G-d [when they serve Him properly], their work will be done by others." Not "Six days shall you do work," but "Six days shall work be done." Their work will already be completed.

This contains a lesson for every Jew to apply in their daily life. Yes, a Jew is obligated to work for a living, to provide for the members of his family, but only his most external powers and abilities should be invested toward this end.

It states in Psalms (128:2): "You shall eat the labor of your hands; happy shall you be, and it shall be good for you." When is it good for man? When only his "hands" are involved in his work; when his head and his heart, his thoughts and emotions, are reserved for higher matters: the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot.

A Jew must never invest himself totally in his business affairs. For it is "the blessing of G-d that makes a man rich." A person's success is not determined by the amount of effort he puts into it. His efforts only create the vessel through which G-d bestows blessings. Thus a Jew must reserve his intellect and energy for spiritual matters, while his business must be viewed as if it is taking care of itself.

Approaching work in such a manner ensures that the Shabbat will be observed properly, that the Jew will be able to put aside his material concerns on the day of rest. If a Jew is overly preoccupied with his livelihood during the work week, his Shabbat will be disturbed by worry and anxiety: How can he earn more money? What should he buy and sell? On Shabbat he will find it difficult to disconnect from worldly matters. Thus "Six days shall work be done" is the most appropriate preparation for "the seventh day shall be holy."

In this manner all the days of the week will acquire a Shabbat-like quality, and the Shabbat itself will have an increased measure of holiness, as implied by the Torah's repetition, "Shabbat shabbaton -- a Shabbat of rest."

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 1

A Slice of Life

Editor's note: In the New York metro area, the response time it takes for emergency medical personnel to arrive after "911" is dialed has cost many lives. The volunteer ambulance corps, Hatzolah, which means "help," was founded over 30 years ago to alleviate this problem for the Jewish community. The following words delivered by Rabbi Herschel Jacobs will give readers some insight into the tremendous dedication of Hatzolah volunteers.
Hatzolah is an organization that was started by a young man named Herschel Webber over 30 years ago. He was living in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and while he was in shul he saw someone having a heart attack. A call was made for an ambulance, and as usual it took 35-40 minutes. The person died. Herschel said he would never allow that to happen again. He bought an oxygen tank, gave out a phone number, and Hatzolah was born. From there, Hatzolah was brought to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, by Leibel Bistritsky who founded Crown Heights Hatzolah. I'm now in Hatzolah 28 years and I have always considered Leibel my mentor, somebody I look up to and can turn to for advice.

Let me tell you a little about self-sacrifice -- mesirat nefesh. Leibel had a small store on the Lower East Side, where I come from. When Leibel received calls, the store could be full of people, but he would run. He would yell, "Watch the store for me till I come back!" Do you understand what that means? A man left his business not knowing what would happen because he knew that somebody needed his help. That's mesirat nefesh.

Imagine this: it's the middle of the night. You're sleeping and the phone rings, waking you up. It's cold, it's snowing, but you run out. Chances are, when you get back from the call an hour later and are on your way back to bed, the phone rings and you're out the door again! You've missed a night's sleep. That's mesirat nefesh.

Or, it's Friday night. You get home from shul and sing "Shalom Aleichem" with your family. Your wife has prepared a delicious meal. You pick up the kiddush cup and suddenly your Hatzolah radio goes off and you run out the door. By the time you get back the fish is warm, the soup is cold, and your wife isn't smiling anymore!

In reality, the Hatzolah wives also have great mesirat nefesh in this matter. When a Hatzolah member helps someone, he at least gets a "thank you." The wife gets nothing. No one even knows who the Hatzolah wife is. She gets no "thank you" from anybody and she is the one left to handle things alone when her husband runs out the door. And, when the husband comes home and G-d forbid, the call was unsuccessful, he is in a bad mood and she has to console him.

Imagine this scene at Passover. The little children have learned the "Four Questions," and they are now sitting at the seder table ready to ask the questions. Your in-laws are also at your table. You're looking forward to eating matza, fulfilling the mitzvot of Pesach, and hearing your children ask the Four Questions. Just then, your radio goes off, you run out the door, and you don't return home until 2:30 in the morning because you had three calls in a row. By the time you get home, your children are sleeping and your in-laws have started and finished the seder without you. A lonely seder awaits you.

For years I could not get guests to come to my house for the seder! Not that the food isn't good, because my wife is a wonderful cook. But the guests knew that by Heshy Jacobs the seder would end at four in the morning. I ran out for the first call before sitting down to the seder, so by the time you started it was already 10:30. Then there would be two calls in the middle of the seder.

Did you know that Hatzolah has sixty ambulances? More than Albany or even Buffalo, a city of one million people. Hatzolah today has six hundred volunteers. I think we hit six hundred and thirteen last month. We don't get one penny of government money; we don't get a penny from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Medicaid, or Medicare. Every dollar is raised from the communities that we serve. We are the largest volunteer ambulance corps in the world, not just America.

Last year, over 200,000 calls came into Hatzolah. Twenty-odd years ago I used to check my radio to see if it worked, because sometimes I heard nothing for an entire 8-10 hour shift. Today the radios are silent for barely five minutes.

I remember one Rosh Hashana when I missed most of the shofar blowing because of a Hatzolah call. I returned for the last blasts, very upset at how much I had missed. Afterwards, someone said to me, "Heshy, what's wrong with you? Do you know what you did for us? When you ran out of the shul and put on the siren, the gates opened up in heaven. All the prayers of the entire Jewish people were able to get in because that siren not only let you through the red lights, it also let us through the heavenly gates. Do you understand the favor that you did?"

May Hashem bring Moshiach soon and we will be able to take these ambulances along with us to Land of Israel and use them only for good things!

Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.

Ed. Note: The address for donations to Hatzolah Crown Hts. division is: Hatzolah of Crown Hts. c/o 1301 Carrol Street, Brooklyn, NY 11213

A Call To Action

Get Rich, Now

Spiritual and material wealth should be pursued, both, of course, for holy purposes, as the Rebbe explained: "Each Jew should seek to obtain wealth, spiritual wealth as our Sages stated, 'There is no concept of wealth other than knowledge,' and also actual material wealth. The latter will, as the Rambam explains, enable one to devote oneself to the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvot in a more complete manner. Similarly, one will be able to donate more generously to tzedaka, including the tzedaka given for the construction of synagogues and houses of study."

(From a talk of the Rebbe, 4 Adar I, 5752-1992)

The Rebbe Writes

8th of Adar 2, 5727 [1967]

Mrs. A. C. Y. H. Blessing and Greeting:

Your cable reached me with some delay. I also received your recent correspondence.

Upon receipt of your cable, the following reply was cabled back to you, "Replying to your cable, wishing you successful treatment, good news, with blessing."

May G-d grant that you should have good news to report, especially now as we are in the auspicious month of Adar. The auspiciousness of this month is, of course, connected with the miraculous Purim festival, in which Jewish women have a particularly important part, for Esther, together with Mordechai, brought about the turn of events. And although Mordechai was as much the essential figure as Esther, and as we say in the Purim prayer, "In the days of Mordechai and Esther," yet the Megilla containing the story of Purim, and which is one of the sacred books of the T'NaCh [Bible], is not called after Mordechai, nor after Mordechai and Esther jointly, but solely after Esther -- Megillat Esther -- the "Book of Esther."

With reference to your letter, I read with considerable interest your outline of your curriculum vitae. I am gratified to note that you are conducting your home in the way of our sacred Torah, called Torat Chaim [The Torah of life] because it is both the source of true life as well as the true guide in daily life, despite the difficulties that you had in the past, and are still experiencing to some extent.

To be sure, that period of time in the past when the daily life should have been different, requires rectification, especially by means of a determined effort to improve the present and future, so as to make up for the past. On the other hand, human nature is such that things that come easily are easily taken for granted, and are not so appreciated and cherished as things for which one had to fight and struggle. Thus, the level of Yiddishkeit [Torah-living] which you and your husband attained through real efforts has permeated you more deeply and thoroughly, and may G-d grant that you should both continue in this direction together with your children, without allowing yourself to be hindered or influenced in any way by the difficulties which you describe in your letter.

On the contrary, the difficulties themselves can serve as a challenge and stimulus to greater spiritual advancement, as is also explained in Chasidic literature, namely that one could learn a lesson even from the Yetzer Hara [Evil Inclination]. For it is clear how persistent and relentless the Yetzer Hara is in doing its duty to distract a Jew from the way of Torah and mitzvot, by presenting him constantly with various difficulties, temptations and all sorts of arguments to the contrary. So much so that the Yetzer Hara often appears in a guise of piety and "The voice of morality," such as the commandment of honoring one's father and mother, the need to preserve peace and harmony, and the like justify a deviation from the Shulchan Aruch [the Code of Jewish Law].

The determination and the dedication of the Yetzer Hara to its duty should therefore serve as an inspiration how much more should a person be devoted and dedicated to his real task, considering that the Jew has a Divine soul and a natural inner drive towards the good and holy, which should make one truly thrilled to be able to serve G-d with joy and gladness of heart.

In connection with the above I must take exception to the expression which you use in your letter, that you sometimes feel like "outcasts" within your family whose ways have parted from the Jewish way of life and who resent your adherence to traditional Yiddishkeit [Judaism].

As a matter of fact, the situation is precisely the reverse, for if anyone is to be considered an outcast, it is the one that excludes himself from the way of Torah and the Jewish tradition which goes back more than a hundred generations to the time when the Jewish people became a holy nation at Mt. Sinai.

Jewish history has clearly demonstrated what has been the mainstream of Jewish tradition and the very basis of Jewish existence throughout the ages.

We have always had deviationists, from the time of the Golden Calf worshippers to present-day assimilationists. But all these have been passing phenomena which came more or less to a swift end when some of the deviationists returned to the mainstream of Jewish tradition, while others, the outcasts, were lost. The same was true in regard to the Baal worshippers during the period of the first Beit Hamikdash [Holy Temple] in Jewish history, the Sadducees in the time of the second Beit Hamikdash, followed by the first Christians, later the Karaites, etc., etc.

The common denominator that bound all Jews together, and served as the basis for Jewish survival, cannot be considered in terms of territory -- for Jews have been without a country for the greater part of their history. Nor can it be considered the language -- because Jews spoke different languages, at different times and countries, and even during the time of King Chizkiyahu, there were Jews who spoke Aramaic. Nor can other cultural and social factors be considered as the common denominator of Jewish survival, since these too have changed from time to time and from country to country.

The only things that have not changed in Jewish life are Shabbat observance, kashrut, tefilin, and all the other mitzvot of the Torah, both the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. It is therefore the Torah and mitzvot which are the basis of Jewish life and survival.

Consequently, the more one's daily life and conduct adheres to this pattern of Jewish living, the more one is attached to the Jewish people, and conversely, the more concessions one is willing to make, the more one lessens one's bonds to the Jewish people, until one may become an outcast, G-d forbid.

As for the "charge" that some people make to the effect that this sort of traditional Judaism is "fanaticism" and the like, this is also nothing new, for there have always been Jews, from the time of the Golden Calf worshippers mentioned above, who considered themselves "modern" and called others fanatics, fundamentalists and the like.

With regard to your personal question (if the question is still valid) as to the advisability of your taking a position in the educational field, a position which some of your local Chasidic friends who know you and know the position, have urged you to accept, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you at length the importance of education, and the privilege of being able to educate Jewish boys and girls. It should be borne in mind that every little bit of good influence while the children are young is multiplied many times as that child becomes of age.

The obvious illustration is that of a seed or seedling, when even a small scratch or defect at that stage could become crippling to the adult tree, while every benefit at that stage is multiplied many times.

I send you my prayerful wishes for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good, especially for a refua [recovery] and good health, and the fulfillment of the mitzvot with joy and gladness of heart, and hope to hear good news from you.

What's New

Our Readers Write
by Yosef Mordechai Gati

It was a Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. when I happened to stop at a kosher Chinese restaurant to eat egg rolls. As I left the restaurant I noticed a friend sitting at his desk in the real estate office next door. We exchanged greetings and I invited him to come to two Chanuka parties the next day in Manhattan. He said, "I don't know. I'll see if I can."

Sure enough, my friend showed up at the first party. It was one of the most festive Chabad sponsored parties ever. I went to the second party at the Chabad Midtown Center and my friend came there, as well. My friend stayed even after I left! Two weeks later, at about the same time, I stopped once again for two kosher egg rolls. Suddenly, someone enveloped me in a great big bear-hug. He started shouting, "Yosef, you don't know what you did for me. You made a great miracle!"

It was my friend from the real estate office. He told me, "I wasn't going to go to the parties, but I went since you invited me. At the first party I kept hearing the word 'maaser' [tithe]. When I got home after the second party, my son who was home, was writing out checks. He said to me, 'Dad, I had a good year, and I want to give tzedaka.'

"The very next day," concluded my friend, "I went with a $500 check to the Chabad House and my son sent off a $500 check to a tzedaka fund."

My friend was overwhelmed as he told me what I did for him. It was not I, but Divine providence.

A Word from the Director

This Shabbat, in addition to the regular Torah portions read in shul, we will also read Parshat Shekalim, the Torah portion in which G-d commands Moshe to take a census of the Jewish people by collecting a half-shekel from each one. The Rebbe explains that a census emphasizes the unique importance of each individual while at the same time reminding us that every Jew's existence is bound to that of his fellow man.

The concept of "loving your fellow man" is further emphasized by the fact that every Jew, no matter how rich or how poor, was required to give the exact same amount of money, a half-shekel. Moreover, the half-shekalim that were collected were used to bring communal offerings on behalf of the entire Jewish people. And although we are in exile we can still fulfill the mitzva of half-shekel by carrying out the custom of giving three half-dollars to charity before Purim.

These gifts will hasten the Redemption, for then "Moshe will gather," i.e., Moshe, "the first redeemer and ultimate redeemer," will gather every single Jew and proceed to Israel, to Jerusalem, to the Third Holy Temple.

Though we do not yet have the Third Holy Temple to which we could bring communal sacrifices, these mitzvot apply equally today. For, the Torah is infinite, not limited to time and place. While the physical Sanctuary was destroyed, the spiritual aspects of the service in the Temple are still carried out today through learning Torah and doing mitzvot.

When a Jew makes a contribution toward a sacred cause, it is immediately matched by a corresponding kindness from G-d to him. Sincere human effort is met halfway by Divine Grace, thus a goal which may at first seem unattainable to a person can actually be reached, because his goodness evokes a corresponding heavenly benevolence.

May our good deeds combined with G-d's benevolence finally bring us to attain our ultimate goal, the coming of Moshiach.

Thoughts that Count

Moshe gathered the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and said to them, "These are the things that G-d commanded, to do them." (Exod. 35:1)

The words "to do them" appear to be superfluous. Moshe made a "convention" of the Jews. Sometimes a convention will consist of speeches and thoughts which do not necessarily lead to concrete results. G-d commanded Moshe to ensure that the thoughts and resolutions shared at this convention were brought down to practical results.

Six days work shall be done and the seventh day shall be holy, a Sabbath of rest to G-d. (Exod. 35:2)

Man was created to work (Job 5:7), yet here it talks of work in the passive form, "work shall be done," rather than in the active form, "You shall do work."

The Torah is in favor of people working, but is against the entire mind, heart, and soul being preoccupied with work. Therefore, during the week "work shall be done," but one's primary preoccupation should be Torah and mitzvot.

(Likutei Sichot)

You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day. (Exod. 35:3)

The Torah singles out this prohibition and not any of the other 39 major forbidden activities of Shabbat. Heated arguments are like fire. They can destroy families, homes, and relationships. When a person is busy there is no time for fighting, but be cause Shabbat is a day of rest, the Torah warns us not to kindle the "fire of dispute," and instead occupy ourselves with Torah study and prayer.


They brought additional donations each morning. (Exod. 36:3)

This is talking about the people who worked on the Tabernacle. According to Jewish law, the working day starts at sunrise and ends at night when the stars appear. For the building of the Tabernacle, the workers gave an extra donation of their time. They woke up especially early in the morning so that they would have more time to work during the day.

(P'ninim Yekarim)

Adapted from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky

It Once Happened

When the stranger entered the little shul, the regulars were curious -- who was he and why had he come to their town. But he was in a great hurry and so, he was relieved to see a quorum of men already assembled, ready to begin the morning prayers. There was no rabbi there, and not wanting to wait, the stranger ascended the bima. The "regulars" were surprised and offended that this unknown man presumed to lead the prayers. After all, who was this fellow, who didn't even have the courtesy to wait a few minutes for the rabbi or the president of the congregation?

The stranger had already begun the morning service when the president arrived. Seeing a stranger at the bima, he rushed up to him and said, "What a chutzpa! Who do you think you are to begin the prayers before the rabbi or I have arrived!" And he continued berating the man in this fashion.

The stranger, however, just kept silent. But his refusal to respond infuriated the president even more and he blurted out, "Don't you see who's speaking to you?"

Finally the stranger replied in a quiet voice, "You also do not see to whom you are speaking."

No sooner had those words been uttered than everything went dark before the president's eyes. He rushed to a doctor, then to a specialist -- to several specialists -- but no one could find a cause for his sudden blindness. He tried every treatment that was suggested to him, but nothing proved a cure.

Then, it dawned upon him: when had his blindness begun? After he had angry words with the stranger in the shul. Undoubtedly he had offended a hidden tzadik with his words, and this was the consequence of his anger.

In despair, he decided to travel to the Baal Shem Tov. He had heard about this great tzadik; maybe he could help.

"Rebbe, I have heard that you can perform miracles. I have been blind since I angered a certain hidden tzadik. My problem is that I don't know who he is or where I can find him."

The Baal Shem Tov replied, "The man is my disciple, Reb Yaakov Koppel, and you sinned against him with your angry speech. Go to him and beg his forgiveness. If he forgives you, your blindness will be cured."

The man indeed traveled to Reb Yaakov, who accepted his apology. His sight returned as quickly as it had vanished.

The morning prayers had just ended. The Baal Shem Tov, who was an esteemed visitor in the town, was about to wash his hands before partaking of a meal, when a distraught woman approached him. She had waited throughout the whole service and could contain herself no longer.

"Rebbe! My husband has been missing for a very long time. I have done everything I can think of to try to find him, but I have no idea where he went. What will happen to me? Please, Rebbe, help me find him," the woman wept.

The Baal Shem Tov stood there, his washing cup poised to pour water on his hands in preparation for the blessing on bread, but instead of continuing, he stopped and responded to the woman.

"You will find your husband in the city of M."

Infused with new hope, the woman departed. But the rabbi of the city, who had heard a great deal about the Baal Shem Tov, had been watching the exchange. Now he had what seemed to him to be a serious question of Jewish law.

"I beg your pardon," began the rabbi, "I was watching your exchange with the woman, and it seems to me that you were saying words of prophecy to her. If that was true, I think you were required to have washed your hands before speaking."

The Baal Shem Tov responded to the rabbi with a question: "If you saw chickens suddenly fluttering about your table set with expensive glassware, what would your reaction be? I think you would automatically reach out to chase them away."

The rabbi acquiesced, but he clearly was not following the Baal Shem Tov's logic.

"I did what came naturally to me," the Baal Shem Tov continued. "I saw standing before me a woman who was in utter despair almost to the breaking point. I knew where her husband was. Do you imagine that I should have continued washing my hands while she stood suffering before my eyes?"

Moshiach Matters

Indeed, the Redemption is very close, for the exile is over, and now we are in the throes of labor. This process is identical to the conclusion of the exile in Egypt, for even after the Jews' slavery had almost ended and their redemption had been announced, their bondage intensified even more -- but not for long, for immediately afterwards they were redeemed.

(From The Chofetz Chaim on Awaiting Moshiach)

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