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L'Chaim
April 12, 1997 - 5 Nissan 5757

464: Tazria

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


  463: Shemini465: Pesach  

Tax Time  |  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

Tax Time

It's that time of year again. The deadline for taxes has arrived once more.

As the procrastinators put the finishing touches on their tax forms, and post offices across the country stay open until midnight so that envelopes will be postmarked "April 15," people might be interested in hearing some Jewish insights on r elated topics.

The Midrash (Breishis Rabba) declares: "A man must be grateful [and do something beneficial] to a place where he derives some benefit." We learn this from the fact that when our ancestor Jacob lived in the city of Shechem, he instituted some thing for the welfare of the city.

The Talmud asks what he did and comes up with the following suggestions: "Rav said, 'He instituted coinage for them' [replacing barter]. Shmuel said, 'He instituted markets for them.' Rabbi Yochanan said, 'He instituted baths for them.' In a similar vein, the Talmud (Baba Kama 92b) teaches us: "Cast no mud into the well from which you have drunk."

In simple words this means that we should never repay a kindness with a wrong doing.

The prime example of this precept is when the Jewish people were commanded to wage war against the Midianites. Unlike the war of Amalek, in which Moshe participated, during the war with Midian, Moshe himself did not attack them, for Midian had provided him with refuge when he ran away from Pharoah.

Certainly we feel contradictory sentiments during tax season. On the one hand, as Jews we are grateful to be living in such a benevolent country. On the other hand, it's not easy to part with money that we've earned by the sweat of our brows -- especially when there are so many other things for which we need the money!

But, as we all whisper our own personal prayers (that our accountants did everything correctly, or that we not be audited this year), we might do well to offer a prayer for the government, as we have been taught to do by our Sages: "Pray for the welfare of the government" (Avot 3:2).

This responsibility was enjoined upon us when we were first exiled from our homeland to live amongst the many nations of the world. In that time, G-d told the Jewish people, "Seek the welfare of the city into which I have exiled you, and pray for it to G-d, because on its well-being depends yours..." (Jeremiah 29:7)

A great Jewish teacher, Rabbeinu Yona, took this idea of prayer for the government one step further and taught: "A man should pray for the welfare of the whole world and share in the grief of others... For no man ought to offer up supplications and prayers for his own needs only. He ought to pray on behalf of all people, that they enjoy well- being. And in the peace of the government there is peace for the world."

Let us pray that the Era of Moshaich commence immediately (before April 15), for as Maimonides states, there is no difference between our times and the times of Moshiach except that we will no longer be under the authority of another government.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Tazria, speaks of one of the most serious forms of ritual impurity, the disease of tzara'at. A person thus afflicted (called a "metzora") was sent outside the Jewish camp and lived in total seclusion until he was cured.

The only authority qualified to determine if an individual had tzara'at and was required to leave the camp was a kohen (priest), as it says, "When the disease of tzara'at is in a man, he shall be brought to the priest...and the priest shall see him and pronounce him impure...for all the days that he bears the affliction...he is impure...."

Even the greatest Torah authority was not permitted to establish the existence of tzara'at if he was not a priest. The only opinion that bore weight was that of the kohen, and his decision was accepted as law.

Why couldn't a Torah authority establish the existence of tzara'at? Why did this have to be done by a kohen?

The answer is revealed when we consider the punishment incurred by the metzora. A metzora was required to undergo a particularly harsh form of punishment: banishment and isolation from the rest of society. The metzora, forced to leave the camp of Israel, was seemingly cut off from the entire Jewish people.

By nature, kohanim are merciful people. Their hearts are filled with love for their fellow Jews, as reflected in the Priestly Blessing: "...Who has sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us to bless His people Israel with love."

The Torah recognizes that a priest will not rush to judge his fellow Jew impure. The priest is reluctant to pronounce a person a metzora, thereby subjecting him to severe punishment. The kohen will go to great lengths in order to spare another person suffering.

The Torah relies on a kohen's judgment as it knows he will make the determination of tzara'at only when there is no other choice. For this reason the ability to establish tzara'at, and the accompanying responsibility for condemning a fellow Jew to social isolation, is given solely to him.

This contains a lesson for all of us:

We must never deem a person worthy of censure and shun his company, even if his behavior appears defective. No flaw is so great that it warrants rejection of our fellow Jew.

Instead, the first thing we must do is examine our own conduct and motivation. Are we seeing another Jew's defects out of love for him, or are we merely recognizing character defects in others because they exist within ourselves? For it is only once we are sure that we are acting out of genuine love that we may approach another person and speak to him about correcting his behavior.

Adapted by Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 27

[Ed's note: This lesson is so very timely, especially in light of recent statements made in the media concerning fellow Jews...]

A Slice of Life

Roy and Pamela
by Yehudis Cohen

On the marriage certificate from their fundamentalist Christian wedding in 1990, their names were listed as Roy and Pamela. On their ketuba, signed this past September, their names are Levi Yitzchak and Penina Leah.

Pamela grew up in an assimilated Jewish home in Northern California where she attended the local Conservative synagogue for Sunday school.

"The Judaism I had been given wasn't enough. I needed a big G-d; I wanted to believe that the Bible is true." Instead, Pamela was expected to limit her spiritual yearnings to the few hours at Sunday school where she was taught that G-d doesn't have much to do with our lives and how to refute the miracles of the Bible.

Pamela remembers watching many of the Christian holiday television programs. For her, the holiday specials were just as enjoyable as the televised sermons and masses. And so, at the age of 13, after one very inspiring holiday special, Pamela offered her own prayer: "If all of this is real, show me a sign and I will believe that Christianity is true."

But no sign was forthcoming.

Pamela finished high school and left home to attend college. Right before her nineteenth birthday, her boyfriend broke up with her. At the ice cream parlor where she worked part-time, a co-worker, who was part of a fundamentalist Christian organization on campus, told her: "You're devastated because you don't have a relationship with G-d. The way to have a relationship with G-d is to accept [the Nazarene] into your heart. If you say this little prayer, you'll have a relationship with G-d. Say this short prayer, you'll feel better."

Pamela hesitated but then said the prayer. "I did feel better! And I suddenly felt that this was the sign that I had prayed for when I was 13 years old."

Pamela got involved with the missionaries on campus and, she says, was somewhat of a star. "I was special to the Christians because I validated them. Even non-fundamentalist, mainstream churches that don't actually missionize Jews give a tremendous amount of money to organizations whose main objective is missionizing Jews."

Pamela's parents told her to speak to their rabbi, but "he had no idea how to work with someone who had been missionized," she recalls. "He had no answers. He couldn't refute any of the missionary claims. He reinforced my feeling that Judaism doesn't have answers and that Christianity is true."

Pamela moved back home, at her parents' insistence, and began taking courses at the local junior college. She attached herself to the Maranatha Church which was preaching on her campus.

Two years later, in 1984, Roy Weese appeared in Pamela's life, sort of. Roy came from a Christian family and had been part of the Maranatha Church in Alabama. Unable to find an engineering job there, he wanted to try his luck in California. Roy began doing administrative work for the church in San Jose and looked for an engineering job.

Pamela had noticed Roy at church and was interested in finding out more about him. After a few years of very casual interaction, Pamela privately submitted his name to the church. From that time on she was not permitted to show any interest in him. If and when Roy submitted her name, they could date. Roy revealed to her six years later when she finally confronted him and asked him what he thought of her, "I've always wanted to marry you but I didn't think you would want me."

Pamela and Roy were married soon after that revelation in a "very Christian wedding." Pamela's parents did not attend. "I'd been missionizing to them for years, telling them that they were going to hell. I had hurt them too much," says Pamela

Two weeks after they returned from their honeymoon, Pamela and Roy began looking for a new church. They had left the Maranatha Church after it had merged with another denomination.

"We began attending a fundamentalist church, but it was huge and wealthy and very fancy. We didn't feel as if we fit in. We went to a smaller church that was more casual but we just couldn't make friends. It was as if G-d was pushing us along, showing us that there was no place for us in Christianity. We tried a Messianic church but the services were long and boring. We were thinking about how we would raise our family. We wanted tradition, a short prayer service, nice music..."

Pamela and Roy decided to convert to Catholicism because, as Pamela explains, the Catholics seemed to have answers to the questions in the Bible that still disturbed them. "We were still searching for Truth."

The Weeses became disenchanted with Catholicism when they had major disagreements with policies of the Pope. "My husband eventually shared with me that he had always had trouble with the trinity. 'Maybe we should see what Jews believe,' he suggested. Personally, I was tired of telling people that they were going to hell. I was tired of feeling guilty when I wasn't preaching, but preaching is really there was. You're either a slave to their god or to the devil. It's all emotion."

Pamela decided to learn how to do things Jewishly. She went to a Jewish bookstore and bought "how to" tapes from Chadish Media. She called Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg, of Chadish Media, who told her, "You must go to Chabad."

Pamela and Roy went to meet with Rabbi Yosef Levin, of Chabad of the Greater South Bay. "After talking with Rabbi Levin I realized that Judaism did have answers. Rabbi Levin was so nice to both of us," Pamela recalls. "He treated us both so well. He was totally non- judgmental."

Even though their experience had been so positive with Rabbi Levin, Pamela decided to speak with other rabbis because, "I didn't think my husband would want to be Chasidic. I went to another rabbi but he just kept telling us over and over again, 'Your marriage is a problem.' My husband was so hurt. Our marriage was all we had! We went back to Rabbi Levin which was the best thing that ever happened to us."

To show how serious Roy was about Judaism, he and Pamela separated. Roy built a shack in their backyard and slept there each evening. "We were very grateful that the rabbis [in Los Angeles who were supervising Roy's conversion] agreed that we could still spend time together during this whole process," says Pamela. Roy studied Torah and began observing some mitzvot. The Weese's moved to Palo Alto to be closer to the Chabad House and Roy built a new shack.

On a Thursday this past September, the Rabbinical Court in L.A. told Rabbi Levin that on Tuesday Roy could undergo conversion. "Rabbi Levin called us. Then Roy asked me if I could pull together a wedding in just over a week. We wanted to get married before Rosh Hashana or we would have had to wait until after Sukkot," she laughs.

"My parents wanted to give us a trip to Israel as a honeymoon, rather than make a lavish wedding," says Pamela. But she told them, "'This is the only real wedding I'm ever going to have.' My mother didn't believe I could pull together anything decent. But I found a dress and Rabbi Levin helped us get the JCC. We had a caterer, flowers, even bentschers with our names. My mother said that had we booked the band a year in advance, we couldn't have done better!"


A Call To Action

Searching

In these pre-Passover days, many are searching for and eradicating chametz from their homes. The Rebbe suggests that we also search out people collecting tzedaka.

Our Sages declared that "Israel will only be redeemed through tzedaka," which in particular, at this time, applies to giving tzedaka intended to allow the needy to purchase their Passover necessities.

Since we are less than thirty days before the Passover holiday, when the awareness of the upcoming holiday is already stressed, efforts must be made in this direction.

As mentioned previously, one should search after the person collecting tzedaka and give him the money without waiting for him to ask for it."

(The Rebbe, 27 Adar, 5750)


The Rebbe Writes

Translation of a Letter of the Rebbe
11th of Nisan, 5731 [1971]

...Passover, the Season of Our Liberation brought about an abject change from abject slavery to complete freedom, from utter darkness to brilliant light. This is also the kind of change which takes place in nature in the spring, when the earth awakens from its winter slumber, and is released from the chains and restraints of the cold winter, to sprout and bloom until the stalks of grain begin to fill up.

Or, taking a detail: When from a seed after he had rotted away there sprouts a new, living and growing crop. In both cases -- Passover and spring -- the change is not a gradual transition from one level to the next, but an extraordinary change, bearing no relation to the previous stage -- a change that creates a new being.

It has been often emphasized that every detail in Torah (meaning "instruction") conveys instruction and teaching; certainly a matter connected with a festival, and a comprehensive festival such as Passover, in particular.

One general instruction that may be derived from Passover, specifically from the connection of Yetziat Mitzrayim [the Exodus from Egypt] with the month of spring, which is applicable to each and every Jew in his daily life, is the following:

Human life, in general, is divided into two spheres: the personal life of the individual, and his accomplishment and contribution to the world. In both of these there is the spiritual life and the physical life.

The Jew's task is to "liberate" everything in the said spheres "from bondage to freedom," that is to say, to take all things out of their limitations and "elevate" them to spirituality (and more spirituality), until every detail of the daily life is made into an instrument of service to G-d.

Even such things which apparently one cannot change -- as, for example, the fact that G-d has so created him that he must depend on food and drink, etc. for survival -- the person nevertheless has the power to transform the physical necessity into a new and incomparably higher thing: One eats for the purpose of being able to do good, to learn Torah and fulfill mitzvot, thus transforming the food into energy to serve G-d.

Moreover, in the very act of eating one serves G-d, for it gives the person an opportunity to make a bracha [blessing] before eating, and after, and so forth.

Something akin to the above we find in regard to the month of spring: At first glance, there is nothing man can do about it. After all, the laws of nature were established by G-d ever since He created heaven and earth, and subsequently ordained that "so long as the earth exists...[the seasons of] cold and heat, and summer and winter, shall not cease." Nevertheless, a Jew observes and watches for the spring month in order to "make Passover to G-d your G-d."

In other words, in the phenomenon of spring he perceives and discerns G-d's immutable laws in nature. And more penetratingly: That it was in the month of spring -- precisely when nature reveals its greatest powers -- that "G-d your G-d brought you out of Egypt," in a most supernatural way.

In all spheres of the daily life a person encounters conditions and situations that are "Mitzrayim" -- in the sense of restraints and hindrances -- which tend to inhibit and restrain the Jew from developing in the fullest measure his true Jewish nature, as a Torah- Jew.

The hindrances and limitations are both internal -- inborn traits and acquired habits; as well as external -- the influences of the environment.

A Jew must free himself from these chains and direct his efforts towards serving G-d. If, on reflection, a person finds that spiritually he is still on a very low level, so that he could hardly be expected to make a complete change from slavery to freedom and from darkness to light -- there is also in such a case a clear message in the festival of Passover. For, as has been noted, Yetziat Mitzrayim was a change from one extreme to the other: From abject bondage to the most depraved idol worshippers, the Jews were not only liberated from both physical slavery (hard labor) and spiritual slavery (idolatry), but soon afterward -- on the seventh day of Passover -- they were able to declare, "This is my G-d," as if pointing a finger; subsequently, they reached Mount Sinai, heard G-d Himself proclaim, "I am G-d your G-d," and received the whole Torah, the Written as well as the Oral Torah -- an extraordinary transformation from one extreme to the other...


What's New

Order Your Matzoh's NOW

Hand made Shemurah Matzah - (Shemura means guarded - the wheat was watched from the time of cutting until production of the Matza), is available for the Passover Seder. Call - 1-800-SHMURAH 746-8724 and order 3 Matzos for the seder $14.45 or an entire pound $22.70 (6-8 Matzos). Price includes shipping in the USA. Order no later than April 12, 1997.

College of Jewish Studies in Cleveland, Ohio

The College of Jewish Studies in Cleveland Ohio - 26500 Shaker Blvd, Beechwood, Ohio and Chabad House of Cleveland are co-chairing a special tribute to the Rebbe on Monday April 7, 1997 (7:30pm) Guest Speaker is Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen, Director of Activities for Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace.

Transliterated Haggada for Pesach

"Rishon" Passover Haggadah TRANSLITERATED - complete Hebrew text with English translation and transliteration in linear format, with modern Hebrew pronunciation. 140 pp. Soft cover. Price: $8.95 - New York City residents must add 8.25% tax (74 cents) Shipping is $2.00 anywhere is U.S. ; International shipping is $ 5.00 via surface mail.

"Schapiro" translated Haggadah - Newly typeset, large print, easy translation - non linear. 105 pp. Soft Cover Price: $1.25 New York City residents must add 8.25% tax (10 cents) Shipping is $2.00 anywhere is U.S. ; International shipping is $ 5.00 via surface mail

Please note: These Haggadah's are not Nusach Chabad.

Available from: Gurary's Books - Tel (718) 437- 9251 or via e-mail: hebook@erols.com


A Word from the Director

This week begins the month of Nisan. The Rebbe discusses a difference of opinion as to when a person should start to review the laws of Passover, either thirty days before Passover or two weeks before Passover. The conclusion is that a person should start reviewing the laws of Passover thirty days before, and as the holiday draws near, we must reevaluate the situation and increase the quantity and quality of our study. This increase applies to the special tzedaka appeal made at this time of year for the holiday needs of our brethren, known as "maot chitim."

During the time of the Tabernacle, each tribal leader brought an offering on the first of the month. The Nisan offering was brought by Nachshon Ben Aminadav. He is well known as the first of the Jews to jump into the Sea of Reeds, causing it to split and thus saving the Jews from the approaching Egyptians. He performed this task with complete self-sacrifice, serving G-d without limitations. Just as Nachshon's unlimited service of G-d caused the sea to split, so too may our increased Torah study and gifts to charity bring about the Redemption, may it be now.

This week, we also commemorate the passing of the Rebbe Rashab (Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber, the fifth Chabad Rebbe), who passed away at the age of 59 on the second of Nisan.

The Rebbe Rashab lived in the town of Lubavitch in White Russia, which had been the center of the Chabad movement. However, in 1915 the Rebbe and his chasidim were forced to leave the town of Lubavitch as the battles of World War I were approaching.

They settled in the town of Rostov, which seemed to be a safe distance from the fighting. But in 1920, the Communists tightened their control over Rostov. This, however, did not discourage the Rebbe Rashab from continuing with his work of inspiring and encouraging his fellow Jews in all areas of Torah and mitzvot.

Only hours before his passing, the Rebbe Rashab told his chasidim, "I am going to heaven, but my writings I am leaving with you." Although he wouldn't be physically present, the chasidim could connect to him through his teachings.


Thoughts that Count

When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male (Lev. 12:2)

Last week's Torah portion discusses kosher food, and this week's begins with childbirth. The connection of these two topics teaches us that the parents' obligation to the child begins even before he is born. A pregnant woman must be very careful about what she eats, because it will affect her child.

(R. Akiva Eiger)

He should be brought to Aharon the Kohen or to one of his sons, the Kohanim (Lev. 13:2)

This verse speaks of leprosy, and while every Kohen is qualified to rule on leprosy, Aharon is specified here. Aharon epitomized loving and pursuing peace, to the point that he would sometimes change the "facts" if this would bring peace between a person and his fellowman.

Tzaraas is caused by lashon hara, speaking ill of a person. Very often, a person will justify speaking lashon hara by saying he is doing a mitzva by telling the truth. He rationalizes that by telling others of someone's wrongdoing, it will cause the person to change his ways. The Torah says that a leper should be brought to Aharon to show him that peace is not accomplished through lashon hara.

(Vayakhel Moshe)

And he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen (Lev 13:2)

When talking of leprosy of the skin it says, "He shall be brought," but concerning the affliction of leprosy on a house it says, "He shall come...to the Kohen." The affliction of leprosy described in the Torah is not the commonly known disease of that name, but a punishment for speaking ill of another, designed to help a person repent and resolve to correct his ways.

First G-d afflicts the person's house. If the person doesn't repent, He afflicts his clothing, and if that doesn't work, the person himself gets leprosy. Usually one whose home is stricken realizes that it's a sign from heaven and goes to the Kohen and repents. But a person who is bodily afflicted with leprosy has already had two reminders and is still stubborn, therefore he will need to be brought to the Kohen.

(Shema Shlomo)

From Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

In the early years of his leadership, the founder of Chabad Chasidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, would expound his teachings in the form of short, homiletic sayings.

One of these early "short discourses" was based on the Talmudic passage, "All bearers of collars go out with a collar and are drawn by a collar."

The Talmud is discussing the laws of Shabbat, on which it is forbidden for a Jew to allow his animal to carry anything out from a private domain to a public domain; however, it is permitted to allow one's animal to go out with its collar around its neck, and even to draw it along by means of its collar. But the Hebrew word the Talmud uses for "collar," shir, also means "song."

Thus Rabbi Shneur Zalman interpreted the Talmud's words to say that, "The masters of song -- the souls and the angels -- go out in song and are drawn by song. Their `going out' in yearning for G-d, and their drawing back into their own existence in order to fulfill the purpose of their creation, are by means of song and melody."

This latest teaching by Rabbi Shneur Zalman, which quickly spread among his followers throughout White Russia and Lithuania, elicited a strong reaction from his opponents, who complained that the chasidim have, yet again, employed homiletic word play and outright distortion of the holy Torah to support innovations to Jewish tradition. The Talmud, said they, is talking about collars worn by animals, not about the singing of souls and angels!

Rabbi Shneur Zalman's words caused a particular uproar in the city of Shklov. Shklov was a town full of Torah scholars and a bastion of opposition to chasidism. There were chasidim in Shklov, but they were a small and much persecuted minority, and this latest controversy inflamed the ardor of their detractors.

While the chasidim of Shklov did not doubt the Rebbe's words, they were hard-pressed to defend them in the face of the onslaught of outrage and ridicule this latest saying had evoked.

A while later, Rabbi Shneur Zalman passed through Shklov on one of his journeys. Among those who visited the Rebbe at his lodgings were many of the town's greatest scholars, who presented him with the questions and difficulties they had accumulated in the course of their studies. For even the Rebbe's most vehement opponents acknowledged his genius and greatness in Torah. The Rebbe listened attentively to all the questions put to him but did not reply to any of them. However, when the scholars of Shklov invited him to lecture in the central study hall, the Rebbe accepted the invitation.

When Rabbi Shneur Zalman ascended the podium at the central study hall of Shklov, the large room was filled to overflowing. Virtually all the town's scholars were there. Some had come to hear the Rebbe speak, but most were there for what was to follow the lecture, when the town's scholars would have the opportunity to pose their questions to the visiting scholar. All had heard of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's strange behavior earlier that day, when all the questions put to him were met with silence. Many hoped to humiliate the chasidic leader by publicly demonstrating his inability to answer their questions.

In the background, of course, loomed the recent controversy over the Rebbe's unconventional interpretation of the Talmudic passage about animals' collars on Shabbat.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman began to speak. "All those of shir go out with shir and are drawn by shir. The masters of song," explained the Rebbe, "the souls and the angels, all go out in song and are drawn by song. Their yearning for G-d, and their drawing back to fulfill the purpose of their creation, are by means of song and melody." And the Rebbe began to sing.

The room fell utterly silent as the Rebbe's melodious voice enveloped the scholars of Shklov. All were caught in the thrall of the melody, a melody of yearning and resolve, of ascent and retreat. As the Rebbe sang, every man in the room felt himself transported from the crowded hall to the innermost recesses of his own mind, where a person is alone with the confusion of his thoughts, alone with his questions and doubts. Only the confusion was gradually being dispelled, the doubts resolved. By the time the Rebbe finished singing, all the questions in the room had been answered.

Among those present in the Shklov study hall that day was one of town's foremost prodigies, Rabbi Yosef Kolbo. Many years later, Rabbi Yosef related his experience to the chasid, Rabbi Avraham Sheines. "I came to the study hall that day with four extremely difficult questions -- questions I had put forth to the leading scholars of Vilna and Slutzk, to no avail. When the Rebbe began to sing, the knots in my mind began to unravel, the concepts began to crystalize and fall into place. One by one, my questions fell away. When the Rebbe finished singing, everything was clear. I felt like a newly born child beholding the world for the first time.

"That was the day I became a chasid," concluded Rabbi Yosef.

Reprinted from The Week in Review, published by V.H.H.


Moshiach Matters

Even the great minds who are here must lay aside their intellects and not be ruled by their reason and knowledge, for they are susceptible to being misguided by their intellect to the point that their end may be a bitter one. The essential thing in these times of the footsteps of Moshiach is not to follow intellect and reason, but to fulfill Torah and mitzvot wholeheartedly, with simple faith in the G-d of Israel.

(The Rebbe Rashab)


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