Motherhood in Judaism | 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
Her plan was clear. She would go every day to the House of Prayer and the Houses of Study. Her child, though still unborn, would come to know the sounds of the holy words of Torah. To her friends, she would explain: "I am going to the House of Prayer, so that my baby can hear the holy words."
On this particular cold, winter day, she sat immersed in her own prayer to the One Above to bless her child with wisdom and the ability to toil in His Torah. She sat until the scholars emerged. Shyly, she approached the first, "Please, bless my child with wisdom." The elderly sage smiled at the young woman whose presence no longer surprised him. "May your child shine with the light of Torah," he replied. She continued on to the various Houses of Study where she would sit beneath the open windows, the words of Torah permeating her essence.
The months passed. The young woman still made her early morning rounds, but now she was accompanied by her baby son, Yehoshua.
She still visited both the Houses of Prayer and the Houses of Study, but now she propped up the baby in a cradle. And from the early morning until the heat of the day had passed, the tiny baby sat, dozed, ate, and dozed again while the sacred melodies of Torah learning filled the air, enveloping him and filtering into his consciousness.
Rabbi Yehoshua was tired. The road to Rome was long and difficult. But, praised be G-d, his mission had met with success. His nerve- wracking debates with the vicious Hadrian had yielded the hoped for result -- the severe decrees against the Jews had been rescinded. He could return home to Yavne in peace, with good news for his colleagues in the Sanhedrin and all his fellow Jews. For now, at least, the Jews could breathe more easily.
Rabbi Yehoshua's tremendous scholarship and his generous, kindly nature made him respected and beloved by all. As the years passed, he accumulated greatness and honor.
One day, already an old man, Rabbi Yehoshua sat with his students exploring a question in Jewish law. Was it incumbent upon the parents to bring their small children to hear the reading of the Torah once every seven years during the Hakhel year? Rabbi Yehoshua listened attentively to the discussion, and then, as if seeing some far-off vision, related the story of how his mother would rise before dawn to sit beneath the open windows and allow her child to absorb the feel and essence of the holy words. All his life, Rabbi Yehoshua continued, he recalled his mother with blessing, for it was she who instilled in him the holiness to which his soul became attached.
Rabbi Yehoshua's comment sealed the discussion with his own beautiful truth.
In this week's Pirkei Avos - Ethics of our fathers, the Mishna describes the 5 students of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai. About Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya the Mishna says:
"Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya - happy is she who bore him"
Why does the mishnah ascribe happiness to Rabbi Yehoshua's mother? Because she was in a large part responsible for his greatness. When Rabbi Yehoshua was an infant, she would hang him in a cradle in the House of Study so that he would become accustomed to the sweet sing-song of Torah study.
As he matured, the influence of his formative years played a large part in shaping his sagelike character.
This message is relevant to Jewish women today who bear the brunt of the responsibility for shaping the nature of the environment of their children.
A child is always learning from his surroundings; whatever he sees or hears makes an impression on him.
When the home in which a child lives, and more particularly, his individual room, is filled with books of Torah teachings, when a tzedakah pushkah is proudly displayed, and a siddur is always handy, the values of study, kindness, and prayer will permeate his character.
To those familiar with the Jewish view of the age at which one's Jewish education begins, a recent study, explored in Time magazine, comes as no surprise. Research on the brain has "discovered" the importance of stimulating a child's brain from birth, and that most of the growth and development of the brain takes place from birth to age three.
In Jewish tradition, a child's "formal" education does not begin until the age of three. Until that time a child's primary teacher, stimulator, nurturer, is his/her mother. Only once a child reaches the age of three, after the explosive development of the brain has slowed, does a child leave his mother's pushing, prodding, preparing, prompting, and parenting to begin conventional schooling.
Jewish continuity is Jewish motherhood. It is Jewish mothers instilling in their children, from birth and even before, a love of G-d, a love of the Torah, and a love of the Jewish people, which are all intricately connected and one. Happy Mother's Day!
In the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Kedoshim, we find three commandments:
1) "You shall be holy," 2) "Every man shall fear his mother and father," 3) "My Sabbaths you shall keep."
As these three mitzvot appear together, it follows that a connection exists between them.
The first commandment in the sequence is "You shall be holy."
A Jew must be holy, distinct from other nations, for the Jewish people is unique. And yet, the holiness of the Jew, that which makes him different from the gentile, is not expressed in his observance of the commandments. A non-Jew is not obligated to keep the Torah's mitzvot; he has no common ground or connection with them. Rather, the sanctity of the Jew is expressed in his daily behavior, in the way he performs the same mundane actions he seems to share with Gentiles. It must always be apparent that the Jew is different and holy, even when he eats and drinks and engages in business.
A Jew is always connected to G-d, no matter where he is. Jews are a holy people; their holiness is maintained even when they are involved in the most mundane tasks of life.
It is not enough, however, for a Jew to be holy. His function in the world is to have a positive effect on the members of his family and ensure that future generations of Jews will also conduct themselves with holiness. This is alluded to in the second commandment: "Every man shall fear his mother and father," the mitzva of Jewish education.
A person's first educators in life are his parents. From the earliest age a Jewish child's mother and father imbue him with the sense that he belong s to a holy nation.
Significantly, the Torah mentions the mother before the father, as mothers spend the most time with their young children and guide them through their early years.
How do we influence our children -- and ourselves -- to be different from all other nations? The answer is contained in the third commandment: "My Sabbaths you shall keep."
The Shabbat is a sign between G-d and the Jewish people. It strengthens and emphasizes a Jew's belief in the Creator and His constant and ongoing supervision of everything that happens in the world.
Many non-Jews, even those who believe in G-d, mistakenly think that after He created the world G-d left it under the control of natural forces. Jews, however, possess emuna, faith. The existence of the Jewish people is not dependent on nature; G-d watches and guides every Jew with His Divine providence. This is alluded to in the third commandment "My Sabbaths you shall keep," for the Jew's faith is unique to him, strengthening his resolve to be holy.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 1
The following letter, written by W. J. Walter, was received by Rabbi "YY" Kazen of Chabad-Lubavitch of Cyberspace. We are sure our readers will enjoy it!
After admiring Chabad from a respectful distance for some years and after a wonderful visit from Rabbi Yossi Jacobson & Rabbi Mendy Harlig last summer, I have taken courage to count myself a Chabadnik!
My wife and I are absolutely new to this Internet business and are very eager to explore the Chabad menu - also a bit nervous of the whole thing. It is what comes of getting modern at the age of 70!
My father was not Jewish; he was German and anti-Semitic - or supposed he was at least. I was a Protestant clergyman for something over 25 years and then, having been always conscious of a discontent with my situation, came into contact with Jews at the age of 50. My wife and I converted and I taught cheder for some years in London before coming home to my birthplace--to the astonishment of our fellow Jews!
But I am sure that G-d caused it to happen to make us a sort of Embassy among the gentiles. Not to convert them but so they should know that we are real people and not out of a book of fairy tales.
I will attempt to describe our situation here.
We are not in a city, we are not on a street, our house has neither name nor number. If you have a good map of Ireland you may find roughly where we are.
We have an old farmhouse with walls of stone, 2 feet 6 inches thick, on a patch of ground an acre and a half in size.
We can see no dwelling from our windows. The concerns of the Talmud are very real to us: oxen in holes, the depredations of cattle that break into our land, the lending axes and sickles etc. Our visitors are hares and foxes, badgers, pheasants as well as very kind and friendly neighbors and our constant friend is a beautiful mountain across from the front of the house.
We are gradually getting braver with the Internet and are beginning to enjoy the "new found freedom" as you so well put it. I am very grateful to have found you through it. I feel already that you are a friend.
To answer your question "How does one have an income in a place like yours?" First I must tell you that we live in the poorest county in Ireland.
In 1845 the population of the county was roughly 250,000 then came the Famine and many thousands died of hunger and "Famine Fever" (cholera). Ever since then the population has been decreasing with every census. Now it stands at a little over 20,000.
Our climate is very mild, getting only a few days of frost in any year - and then usually only at night. It is hilly and mountainous land and often rocky or boggy. So we grow no grain and concentrate on cattle and sheep - or on forestry. Leitrim is reckoned to be the best area in Europe for growing trees. Looked at more closely, that means that it grows trees FAST, and THAT means that our hardwoods are not all that hard so our oaks are oaks but not the very strongest oak in the world. The major forestry projects are to produce pine and spruce for pulp and pitprops. So that provides SOME employment.
Most people have little farms of 15 - 30 acres which used to keep a family but now they want televisions and degrees for t heir children so more money is needed and second and third jobs in a family are common.
Then a lot is done without money. You mend my gate or my car and accept no payment so I send off faxes or, now, e-mail for you, or I teach your children French and German. When we get a man to work with our trees or digging drains he will get 15 pounds sterling a day and we offer him a meal at midday.
My income comes from my small Royal Navy pension plus a reduced U.K. old age pension. This may give the reputation of us being well off around here but, when it comes to paying for a ticket to England or buying a Chabad book (!) from America it quickly whittles away the actual cash.
I have a bad conscience about not getting to Dublin (110 miles) to find a minyan but I couldn't afford to stay overnight even if I was willing to face the city (which I would if I got up my courage enough).
Twice a year I go over to London, see one or two of my three sons and spend a Shabbat in the shul in whose care we were converted.
Before I decided that I could not continue with Christianity I was moving cautiously toward a belief in reincarnation (which is anathema to Christians). I found that Chabad holds this belief. I have also heard that it is an integral part of Jewish thought. Do all Jewish groupings hold to this belief? Mind you, I can see that those who hold it must feel that Judaism could not hold together properly without it.
Well, after all this introduction, I am going to share our encounter with Mendy and Yossi this past summer, and hope you will appreciate it.
I had originally written it for the "Concord" a publication that is printed by Rabbi Icky Sufrin of Lubavitch in London, whose work entails involvement with Jews in small communities.
(The article will appear in next week's issue)
On Shabbat afternoons between Passover and Rosh Hashana we read one of the six chapters of Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers. Pirkei Avot is a collection of ethics, moral instruction, and ideals of character taught by the Sages of the Talmud. Their express purpose is to guide a person to conduct himself according to the highest standards, both in his relationship with his Creator and his relationship with his fellow man. The Rebbe has emphasized that we should not just give Pirkei Avot a cursory glance but should actually study it each week.
You can receive a "dose" every week via e-mail. Send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org and in the Subject line type: Subscribe G-4
Sichos in English (email@example.com) published a book on Pirkei Avot titled: In the Paths of our Fathers.
Vaad Hanochos Hatmimim (firstname.lastname@example.org) published a book on Pirkei Avot titled: Beyond the Letter of the Law.
Please contact them for price, shipping etc.
THE HISTORIC ROLE OF JEWISH WOMEN
2 Tamuz, 5730 
After the long interval, I was pleased to receive your letter of last week, with the enclosures.
For various reasons, I am replying in English, one of them being that you may wish to show the letter to some of the friends of Chabad in your community, for whom Hebrew text may not be so easy.
Referring to the main topic of your letter, namely the dissemination of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] among the Jewish women, I can hardly overemphasize that this activity is one of the most basic and vital efforts for the general strengthening and spreading of Yiddishkeit.
The role of Jewish women in Jewish life goes back to the time of Matan Torah [the giving of the Torah], as is well known from the commentary of our Sages on the verse, "Thus shalt thou say to the House of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel -- the `House of Jacob' meaning the women." (Mechilta on Yitro 19:3 quoted Rashi on this verse.)
In other words, before giving the Torah to the whole people of Israel, G-d told Moshe Rabbeinu to first approach the women, and then the men. This emphasizes the primary role of the Jewish wife and mother in preserving the Torah.
Ever since, and throughout the ages, Jewish women have had a crucial role in the destiny of our people, as is well-known. Moreover, the Jewish housewife is called the Akeret Habayit -- "the foundation of the house."
In addition to the plain meaning of this term, namely, that she is the foundation of her own home, the term may be extended to include the whole "House of Israel," which is made up of many individual homes and families, for, indeed, this has been the historic role of Jewish womanhood.
Being acutely aware of this role of Jewish women in Jewish life, especially in the most recent generations, my father-in-law of saintly memory, frequently emphasized this, so much so that immediately after his liberation from Soviet Russia in 1927, when it became possible for him to publish his teachings, he published a number of discourses, talks and addresses in Yiddish, in order to make them more easily accessible to Jewish women and daughters. There is no need to elaborate further on the obvious.
In the light of the above, and since this has been the consistent policy of all Chabad activities, it is hardly likely that any Chabad worker would not be interested in this area, and there can only be a misunderstanding if this is the impression in the particular case.
I am confident that by discussing the matter together, it will soon be discovered that there has been a misunderstanding, and the reasons that have given rise to such a misunderstanding could be cleared up and easily removed.
Needless to say, you may show this letter to whom it may concern. I may add, however, that judging by your writing, that person seems to have a heavy burden of activity on his shoulders, and this may be the explanation why little has been done in the area of disseminating Yiddishkeit among the women as you write, simply for lack of manpower and time, etc.
At any rate, I trust that you will get together and clear this matter up, in accordance with the verse -- Az Nidbiru Yirei Hashem ["So shall those who fear G-d speak"], etc....
I was pleased to read in your letter about the advancement in your position, and may G-d grant that you continue to advance from good to better and best, since there is no limit to the good.
In our days there is the additional important consideration, and that is when a Jew, a Shomer Torah and mitzvot [one who observes the Torah and its mitzvot], attains prominence in his field, regardless what his field may be, this gives him an additional opportunity and capacity to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit, all the more so a person who is already active in the dissemination of traditional Yiddishkeit of the Torah and mitzvot.
May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all above, and together with your wife, to bring up your children to a life of Torah, Chupa [marriage] and Good Deeds, in good health and happy circumstances.
P.S. Acting on your request, this letter is being sent to you on a priority basis.
Listening to Life's Messages
Listening to Life's Messages is a compilation by Rabbi Dovid Polter of the Rebbe's teachings in which the Rebbe translates mundane activity into an analogy of spiritual practice.
What lessons can be learned from medical science, the arts, sports, professions etc.
Listening to Life's Messages contains these teachings and more. Published by Sichos in English, 788 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213 ($8 includes s&h)
EYES UPON THE LAND
Subtitled The Territorial Integrity of Israel: A Life Threatening Concern.
This concise book offers an approach to the issues of Arab-Israeli relations rooted in the principles of our Jewish heritage, yet starkly realistic in its appreciation of what is happening in Israel today.
Though based on the public statements of the Rebbe from as far back as the Six Day War, their immediate relevance is uncanny. Published by Sichos in English, $6.
The Rebbe has spoken often of how important the Land of Israel is to the Jewish people. At a gathering in 5750 (1990) the Rebbe spoke about the importance of maintaining possession of every inch of the land, saying:
"Just as the Jews are G-d's chosen people, Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] is G-d's chosen land, a holy land given to the Jewish people, those living on the land at present, and those who are presently living in the Diaspora. No one is entitled to give up any portion of Eretz Yisrael to gentiles. Maintaining possession of these lands is the only path to peace. Succumbing to the pressure to surrender them will only invite additional pressure, weakening the security of the Jewish people and exposing them to danger. Heaven forbid that the government in Eretz Yisrael should consider surrendering any portion of Eretz Yisrael which G-d has granted us."
The Rebbe's approach to Eretz Yisrael could almost be described as that of "L'chatchila Ariber." L'chatchila Ariber means, "to begin with, go over."
This concept was innovated by the Rebbe Maharash (Rabbi Shmuel, the fourth Chabad Rebbe), whose birthday is celebrated this Friday, 2 Iyar.
The approach of L'chatchila Ariber teaches that if we come upon an obstacle to a task we are involved in, or an obstacle to a mitzva or project or good deed which comes our way (or we pursue), we should overcome the obstacle in the most direct manner.
The Rebbe Maharash explained that while some people propose that when confronted with an obstacle the best route is to go around, or under it -- and the Rebbe Maharash says: "And I say one has to go l'chatchila ariber [from the start, go over it]."
In these auspicious days of the Rebbe Maharash's birthday and the Shabbat following it, may our pursuit of Torah and mitzvot be in a manner of "l'chatchila ariber." Surely this fortitude and persistence will have its desired effect, true peace in the Land of Israel, and throughout the entire world, with the revelation of Moshiach, NOW!
You shall fear every man his mother and father (Lev. 19:3)
Here the Torah uses the word "ish" for "man." Ish generally refers to an adult. The Torah is teaching us that we are obligated also as adults to fear our parents, and that fear shouldn't merely derive from being dependent on them.
You shall not steal (Lev. 19:11)
This commandment is written in the plural to teach us that one who witnesses a theft and remains silent is also considered a thief. Also, one who knowingly purchases stolen goods is considered a thief.
(Shaar Bait Rabim)
You shall not be a tale bearer among your people; you shall not stand idle while your fellow's blood is shed (Lev. 19:16)
There is a connection between these two commandments. To speak evil about another Jew, even if it is the truth, is a serious transgression. However, if a person hears that someone is planning to harm another, that person is obligated to forewarn the intended victim.
You shall love your fellow as yourself (Lev. 19:18)
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chasidut explains how a person can love another Jew as much as himself. We all consist of two parts, a body and a soul. While our bodies are separate from each other, all of our souls are a part of G-d. Realizing this, it is easy to love another Jew as oneself, because through our souls we are all one.
Upon the Kohanim, and upon all the people of the congregation [hakahal], shall He bring atonement. (16:33)
The word "hakahal" -- "of the congregation" seems to be superflous, for the verse could have simply said, "upon all the people." However, "hakahel" is from the same root as "hakheil," which means united, gathered together. The Torah is emphasizing the importance of unity among the Jewish people. When the people are united and together, the Kohen is able to beseech G-d to forgive their transgressions.
From: Vedibarta Bam - By Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
Once ruler of a village decreed that the Jews of his village be expelled. The Jews came to the Baal Shem Tov and begged him to pray on their behalf so that the decree would be rescinded, and they would not be forced to leave their homes and belongings, to wander in exile. The Baal Shem Tov advised them to find a certain old man by the name of Yaakov ben Baruch. He would present their situation in Petersburg, and the decree would be abolished.
The Jews did as they were told and found Yaakov ben Baruch. He was exceedingly old and reluctant to travel. But when he understood that the fate of all the Jews of the village was dependent on him, he disregarded his old age and the bother it would cause him, and traveled to Petersburg.
As soon as he arrived in Petersburg, he wrote a letter to the great minister in charge of all the villages, in which he complained about the ruler and asked that the decree of expulsion be revoked. He signed the letter, Yaakov ben Baruch.
In the normal course of events, under the prevailing conditions of the times, the chances were great that his letter would be thrown into the pile of papers before anyone would even look at the petition of some unfortunate Jew who dared to complain about the ruler of the village. But, in an unusual turn of events, when the minister received the letter, he invited the old man to personally meet with him!
With his heart trembling in fear, Yaakov went to meet the minister. He wondered and was quite apprehensive about how the minister would treat him. He knew that one word from the minister would be enough to send him to the gallows, Heaven forbid, without any trial at all, and with no one to protest.
When he entered the office, the minister gazed upon Yaakov for some time, without saying a word. Yaakov was wondering what was happening, when suddenly some brawny men entered and took him away. They locked him up in the dungeon.
Utterly frightened and unaware of what his "crime" could be, Yaakov sat in his cell and said viduy (confession of one's sins) and prepared nervously for what awaited him. Suddenly the door opened and a priest stood in the doorway. In one hand he held a cross and in the other, a spoon. He said, "You have a choice to either bow to the cross, or die when I pour the boiling lead in this spoon down your throat!"
"I am a Jew, and I will die a Jew," Yaakov said resolutely. He closed his eyes, said Shema with complete faith, and prepared to die al kiddush Hashem [to sanctify the name of G-d]. He opened his mouth and anticipated a quick journey to the next world.
The priest immediately emptied the contents of the spoon into his mouth, but to Yaakov's shock, he discovered that it wasn't boiling lead at all, but honey! Thoroughly confused, Yaakov was brought back to the minister's office. He was received graciously, and asked to sit down. The minister asked his pardon for scaring him nearly to death and explained his actions thus:
"When I was growing up, I lived in the home of a wealthy squire. From time to time, this squire would get drunk and then he would strike anybody who crossed his path. I ran away from the squire's house to the home of a Jew. A teacher sat there teaching his students. When the teacher saw me, he pitied me and treated me well. He gave me food and drink, and allowed me to warm up and rest. He took care of all my needs. I heard him explain to the children the greatness of giving up one's life for G-d, to be martyred for one's belief in G-d. He said there was no one greater or more fortunate than the one who merits this fate.
"I was always grateful to that teacher," continued the minister, "and I waited for the opportunity when I could repay him, though I never thought I'd meet him again. The name Yaakov ben Baruch was signed on the letter. It reminded me of that incident, which I recall as though it had just happened. That is why I invited you here.
"When I saw you today, I recognized you as that teacher from many years ago. I decided the time had come to repay you. Since I heard from you then how precious the mitzva of self-sacrifice is, I wanted to give you the merit of that mitzva. I could think of no other way of doing it than the way I did. Now I ask for forgiveness, for I only did it for your benefit. And I will certainly fulfill your request and make sure that the decree of expulsion is rescinded immediately."
"The field will exult and everything in it." The Alshich comments that when Adam sinned, G-d cursed the earth which Adam would thereafter have to cultivate for his sustenance. In the future, however, this curse will be nullified and the fields will exult when they return to their original blessed state.