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Bereishis Genesis

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October 31, 1997 - 30 Tishrei 5758

491: Noach

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  490: Sukkos492: Lech Lecha  

The Sounds of Silence  |  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 Sounds of Silence

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, writer Roy Rivenburg asks, "Is silence becoming unheard of?" Rivenburg describes an experience that New York composer Raphael Mostel had when he was in the middle of nowhere in Switzerland. Mostel experienced "silence syndrome."

"Miles from the nearest shrieking car alarm or boombox, he found himself unable -- for several days -- to hear certain birds because `my ears were closed down from the bombardment of noise.'

Mostel's Swiss friend kept saying, "Listen to that," but the composer didn't hear anything. Mostel recalls that it took him a couple of days before he could tune in.

Rivenburg suggests, "Silence has become so rare that the human ear-- and mind -- often can't deal with it.

"Although many people say they yearn for peace and quiet, in practice they seem to dread it. They flip on the television for background noise, drive to work with the car radio blaring and exercise to the strains of stereo-headphones concertos ."

The reporter concludes, "Experts say it [silence] also holds a key to mental and spiritual well-being. Those benefits are increasingly hard to come by now that all of life seems to have its own sound-track."

It seems then, that our minds and souls need at least moderate doses of silence. (For, even our "souls" need the sounds of the shofar blasted, Jewish teachings verbalized, prayers whispered, the Torah reading chanted.) But what of our bodies? Do they need the white space of stillness to function properly?

The great Jewish leader Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel taught, "All my days I grew up among the Sages and did not find anything better for a person ('laguf') than silence." Although "laguf" is generally translated as "for a person," the literal translation is "for the body." The Midrash explains that even in matters concerning the physical body and its needs, silence is preferable to speech.

So, now that we know that for our minds, souls, and even bodies, silence is a great thing, what of our emotions? What of our need to express ourselves with words?

Looking in a book of famous quotations under the word "silence" uncovers dozens of eloquent and powerful entries, not the least of which is a quote from the Bible (Ecclesiastics) which reads: "To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven... A time to keep silent and a time to speak..."

Why not take some time to silently read a few lesser known, but equally eloquent and powerful, teachings on silence from some of the Chasidic masters:

"Learn to be silent so that you should know how to speak." Rabbi Mendel of Vorki.

"The voices of silence are more elevated than those of speech." The Baal Shem Tov.

"In our youth we learn to speak. When we are mature we learn to be silent. This is one of the great deficiencies of a person. He learns to speak before he knows how to be silent." Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

"Alacrity is a great and precious character trait for every limb of the body except the mouth and tongue." The Maggid of Mezritch.

"One can shout with a silent voice." Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

"When a person has what to shout about and wants to shout but is unable, that is the greatest cry there is." Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.

"Through silence a person expresses the ultimate degree of self- nullification which characterizes the most elevated aspect of his soul, called yechida." Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber of Lubavitch.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Noach, we read the famous story of Noach and the flood. It was at the express command of G-d that Noach first entered the ark, as it states, "Come you and all your household into the ark." It was also at G-d's express command that he left it, as we are told, "Go forth from the ark, you and your wife and your sons, and your sons' wives with you."

Thus it is difficult to understand why Noach sent out the raven and the dove to determine if the Flood had ended. If Noach was supposed to wait until G-d told him it was time to leave, why did he send the birds out to see if the waters had abated? Why wasn't he content to wait for G-d's command?

In truth, by sending the birds from the ark, Noach was expressing his strong desire to leave it. Rather than waiting for G-d to come to him, he did all in his power to facilitate his exit. Noach sent the raven, and indeed sent the dove out twice, in the hope that the Flood had receded and it was already permissible for him to leave.

When G-d saw Noach's efforts and observed his intense longing to go out, He hastened to issue His command. In fact, the command "Go out of the ark" was given in the merit of Noach's exertions.

Exile, is likened to the mabul (Flood), for in exile our perceptions of reality are mevulbal (confused). The spiritual nature of the world is hidden, whereas physicality is easily perceived. In exile it is hard for the Jew to appreciate that his true function is the service of G-d, for the material world conspires to obscure the underlying reality. The confusion of exile is so great that the falsehood of the world is often mistaken for truth.

In such circumstances it is forbidden to sit back with our arms folded. We cannot wait until G-d will come and tell us to go out of exile.

Learning from the example of Noach, we must also do all in our power to determine if the misfortune has ended and hasten our departure from exile. Rather than wait placidly for the exile to be over, we must expend all necessary efforts to put an end to it immediately.

What can we do? First, we must believe that at any minute the exile can end and Moshiach will come. Second, we should disseminate the belief in Moshiach and the anticipation of his coming. We must also increase our performance of good deeds, and bombard G-d with petitions and prayers that He remove us at once from the exile and bring us to Redemption.

When G-d will see our strong desire and intense longing to leave exile, most assuredly He will hasten to send our Moshiach. In the merit of our efforts He will certainly fulfill our hearts' desire, and bring Moshiach to us at once.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Hitva'aduyot 5745, Volume 4

A Slice of Life

Rabbi Perl linking the past and present
by Yehudis Cohen

"Isn't this exciting? I mean, aren't you just amazed at the response?" I gush to Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Congregation Beth Sholom Chabad in Mineola, Long Island.

From the moment I heard about the "Good Deed Links" campaign Rabbi Perl initiated over six months ago, I was awed by this grass-roots attempt to brighten one of the darkest periods of Jewish history with tiny flames of light.

"The idea for the Good Deed Links came to me when I recognized the tremendous response to NBC's viewing of Schindler's List," begins London born Rabbi Perl, who has been an emissary of the Rebbe on Long Island for over 20 years. "In the days following the movie, the phone rang non-stop. People from all walks of life, from all levels of Jewish observance, even non-Jews, called to speak with me about Schindler's List and the impact the movie had made on them."

Rabbi Perl sensed a tremendous awakening among his callers and congregants and felt that, despite whatever controversy there may have been over Schindler's motives or life-style, "the bottom line is that this one man saved 1,000 Jews. The Holocaust taught us how much evil one person can perform. Schindler's List is an illustration of how much good one person can achieve."

The question Rabbi Perl asked himself was, "How can we channel this interest into something positive that will somehow connect us to the Jews who were murdered and at the same time instill within each individual the realization that every per son's actions count?"

Maimonides teaches that every person should view his own actions and those of the entire world as if they were equally balanced between good and evil, and one additional good deed can tip the scale, bringing salvation not only to himself but to the entire world. With this teaching in mind, Rabbi Perl decided to start a campaign to collect six million good deeds with the intention of each one being connected to one of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Using paper clips as the tangible illustration of the "link" was a natural idea for the rabbi, who uses paper clips when he counsels individuals seeking to find out more about Judaism or when he meets children approaching Bar or Bat Mitzva and their families. "I emphasize that every Jew is part of a long tradition. I take three paper clips and make a chain with them. I explain that the third clip is oneself, the next is one's parents, the first is one's grandparents. I emphasize that every Jew is part of a long chain. I also use the three paper clips to represent the concept that Torah, G-d and the Jewish people are all interconnected." The idea of asking people to do a good deed in memory of one of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust and connecting the good deed to all other good deeds with paper clips was a natural progression from his three paper clip demonstration.

To date, the Good Deed Link has close to 1,000,000 good deeds and paper clips, a wonderful beginning but still a long way off from the 6 million good deeds the campaign hopes to collect in time for the special event on November 10. The evening, which will take place on the 59th anniversary of Kristallnacht -- the massive Nazi pogram against the Jews -- will feature exhibits by ten artists. The exhibits will incorporate the paper clips and good deeds and will focus on the theme of turning darkness into light. The "entrance fee" to the event will be a paper clip and good deed which each person will link to a massive Good Deed Links chain that will encircle the building. The participants will be addressed by a guest speaker who was present at Kristallnacht as well as by first and second generation survivors.

Some individuals have sent entire boxes of paper clips, which has inspired Rabbi Perl to publicize on the internet that people can email good deeds and "virtual" paper clips to him at He will print out the good deeds and attach them to real paper clips which will be included in the exhibition.

"There has been an unprecedented show of unity," adds Rabbi Perl. "The responses have come in from all over the world, from Jews and non- Jews, from public and private schools and camps, Jewish and non-Jewish congregations."

Rabbi Perl eagerly agrees to read off just a few of the good deeds he has received: Take care of my elderly mother to ensure her health and happiness; try harder to get along with my widowed sister; I will sing for a charity for no fee; attend Temple services; I [a judge] will issue just decisions without influence or bias based on race or religion; I will make a special effort to help a homeless person; purchase a new football, basketball and baseball to donate to the orphans at Ohel Children's Home; I will be patient with a friend who is having a hard time due to illness; give more tzedaka; I bought candy for a friend when she had no money.

Rabbi Perl invites the public to continue sending in good deeds and to attend the event, which will take place at Congregation Beth Sholom Chabad, 261 Willis Avenue, Mineola (New York, 11501). Concerning the event, he concludes by explaining "Everyone will enter through a corridor of darkness and, with the help of the good deed links, will come into a hall filled with light. It is our hope that the light generated by these good deeds will hasten the ultimate light of Moshiach."

A Call To Action

Fix Times: "The coming of the Messianic Era will be hastened by taking on good resolutions to increase one's service of Torah and mitzvot, establishing fixed times for Torah study. The fixation of these study sessions must be in our souls as well as in time. And as our Sages emphasized, an entity which is "fixed" never becomes nullified. Even when a person will be involved in other matters, the influence of his Torah studies will continue.

(The Rebbe - Tishrei, 5752- 1992)

The Rebbe Writes

2 Tammuz, 5730 [1970]

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 your friends..., 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 they spoke, those who fear G-d], etc.

With regard to the second item about which you write, namely the over- centralization of activity in one place and one group, etc. -- it is difficult for me to express an opinion at such a distance. However, generally the principle that applies here is Kinat Sofrim Tarbeh Chachma [Competition among Scholars increases wisdom]. Therefore, every effort should be made to increase and spread the good work, especially efforts connected with chinuch [education], wherever possible.

The importance of this principle has also been discussed on various occasions. One proof of it is although the Torah considers "Hasagat Gevul" [encroaching on another's "territory"] as one of the most stringent matters, so much so that it is one of the eleven blessings specifically mentioned at Mt. Grizim, nevertheless the psak din [Jewish legal decision] is that there is one exception, namely in the case of establishing chinuch institutions even in the same neighborhood and in close proximity, one in addition to another, because of the mentioned reason that "Competition among scholars increases wisdom."

What's New


The Chabad House of Shlomy, in northern Israel, recently expanded its facilities to accommodate the growing kindergarten. The Chabad House, situated almost on Israel's border, serves as a beacon of light to local residents.


An inspiring and exciting Shabbaton is planned for the weekend of November 14 - 16. Rabbi Simon Jacobson, author of Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe, will be a featured speaker at the weekend, which will be hosted by the Chabad-Lubavitch community in Crown Heights. for more information call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 953-1000.

A Word from the Director

This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, the beginning of the month of Cheshvan. It is referred to as Mar-Cheshvan, "bitter Cheshvan," as it is a month bereft of holidays. In addition, "mar" means "a drop of water." The rainy season in Israel begins in the month of Cheshvan, and "mar" refers to the bountiful rains that fall at this time.

Rain is a gift, a blessing that is dependent on our behavior. If we do the mitzvot, we are blessed with rain. This is unlike dew, which never ceases to be produced. Rain has to go through a constant process of elevation, which involves water vapor rising up and forming clouds before it can be released as rain. So too is a Jew's spiritual development, which constantly has to be reaching higher.

With the arrival of the month of Cheshvan we enter a new phase in the Jewish year. Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan represents a transition from a month of festivals to the ordinary service of the year. In the month of Elul we prepared ourselves for the Days of Awe. During Tishrei we welcomed the new year and stood before G-d in judgement, which was followed by the joyous days of Sukkot. But now Cheshvan has arrived and our mission is to carry the holiness of the month of Tishrei with us as we reenter the "real world."

Chasidic thought describes this mission as "V'Yaakov halach l'darko -- and Yaakov went on his way."

The name Yaakov [Jacob] represents the entire Jewish nation. Just as Jacob had to leave the house of his father, his source of spirituality, so too do we have to leave the spiritual and festive month of Tishrei. And just as Jacob was able to not only take with him the lessons of his father's house, but utilize his travels to further his spiritual growth, we too have to take with us all that we have gained during the holidays. And as the year progresses, we should continue to attain higher goals of spiritual growth.

May we travel through the year 5758 always reaching higher, striving further, until we have achieved our ultimate goal, the coming of Moshiach.

Thoughts that Count

Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generation; with G-d Noah walked (Gen. 6:9)

The Torah goes into such detail to describe the righteousness of Noah to show that he was meticulous in observing both categories of mitzvot, those that involve serving G-d, and those that involve our responsibility to our fellow man. "Perfect in his generation" refers to the proper way that Noah treated every human being, and "with G-d Noah walked" refers to the fact that Noah served G-d diligently.

(Pardes Yosef)

A righteous man, a tzaddik, is a person who "walks with G-d," so the above verse appears to be redundant. The Torah is showing us just how great a person Noah was. He was indeed, "perfect in his generation," acting in a righteous manner when he was out among the people of his generation. Yet even when "he walked with G-d," alone, with only G-d to witness his actions, he still behaved in a righteous manner.

(Yalkut Hadrush)

All flesh has corrupted his way on the earth (Gen. 6:12)

In the days before the flood, the moral situation had deteriorated to the point that even those who by their nature recognized the difference between right and wrong lost that sensitivity and began to sin without feeling a sense of guilt and wrongdoing.

(Baal Haturim)

G-d said to Noah, "Enter, you and all your family, into the ark." (Gen. 7:1)

Every detail in the Torah contains eternal lessons that we can utilize even in our times. The Hebrew word for "ark," teiva, also means "word." G-d is commanding every one of us to "enter" the words of Torah, to read each word with feeling and understanding.

(Baal Shem Tov)

It Once Happened

The people of Vitebsk were a miserly lot. Not that they would leave a hungry man to starve. Not at all. If a pauper was hungry, the Jews of Vitebsk supplied him with food. However, when it came to giving money, that was an entirely different story. They rarely gave unless it was forced out of them.

It once happened that a Chasid came from Vitebsk to consult with the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Rebbe of Lubavitch). His only son, the apple of his eye, had just been ordered to appear in a few days at the conscription office. He would be evaluated to see if he was fit to join the Russian army.

The Chasid was at his wits' end. It was a particularly harsh year, and the government was going after everyone. Men who would normally have been exempted were being drafted. Though in the past, the Chasid could have relied on the fact that his son was an only child, this fact would no longer exempt him.

The Chasid stood in the Tzemach Tzedek's room and asked for the Rebbe's blessing. The Rebbe eyed him carefully: "I cannot help you."

Unexpected as the answer was, the Chasid did not lose faith. He stayed in the Rebbe's room, pleading and begging for his blessing, but to no avail. The Tzemach Tzedek repeated simply: "I cannot help you."

The Chasid was friendly with the Rebbe's son, Reb Shmuel, who was later to succeed his father. Out of desperation, the Chasid set out for Reb Shmuel's home and related to him all that had transpired. Could Reb Shmuel intervene on his behalf? Reb Shmuel said he would try his best. When the time was right, Reb Shmuel entered his father's room to plead the Chasid's case. But the Tzemach Tzedek repeated once more: "I cannot help him."

The Chasid returned to Vitebsk discouraged and broken-hearted. Two days before his son's appointment, he sent a special messenger again to Reb Shmuel with a heartfelt plea to try once more. Reb Shmuel went to his father. There were another two days left: could the Rebbe bless the Chasid?

The Tzemach Tzedek turned to his son and said, "What do you want from me? I cannot help him. Bring me a Midrash Tanchuma." Reb Shmuel did so, and the Rebbe opened it to the portion Mishpatim, to the verse that starts, "When you will lend money to my people," and read to him the following:

"The Holy One, Blessed be He, says: 'The pauper's soul was famished with starvation and you gave him support and revived him. I promise you that I shall reimburse you with a soul for a soul.'

" 'The day will come,'" the Tzemach Tzedek continued reading, "when your son or daughter will succumb to sickness or approach death's door, and I will remember the deed that you performed. I shall repay a soul for a soul."

The Tzemach Tzedek closed the book and the subject was closed.

A few days passed and the news was heard in Lubavitch that this particular Chasid's son had been spared. He had been at the conscription office and had managed to return home a free man.

When the Tzemach Tzedek heard the news he was elated. Reb Shmuel, too, rejoiced in the Chasid's good fortune, yet he could not help but wonder what had transpired. What was it that had saved the boy?

Shortly after, Reb Shmuel needed to consult with a Doctor Heibenthal who lived in Vitebsk. Reb Shmuel used the opportunity to meet with this Chasid. "Tell me," Reb Shmuel asked, "What was it you did on the day your son went to the office which saved him from conscription?"

"I honestly don't know," he replied. "Well then, go ask your wife."

The Chasid did so. His wife told them that she did not remember anything in particular which could have contributed to what had happened. Reb Shmuel was insistent. He prodded her and she thought back to that day. And then she remembered.

A hungry pauper had come to their door early that fateful day and asked them to give him some food. They brushed him off angrily and shouted at him. "Today we are tearing the graves apart asking for mercy," they had screamed at him, "and you come to bother us? We have no time for you now!"

The pauper was adamant. He ignored their cries and began complaining of the powerful hunger he felt. "I truly have not eaten in a long time!" he said. "How is it that you can refuse another Jew who is starving? I am so hungry!"

There was a meal that had been prepared for the family to eat that day. Due, however, to the emotional strain and anguish that everyone felt, it was untouched. The Chasid's wife took the food and served it to the poor man. He, in turn, enjoyed a hearty meal.

Reb Shmuel heard all she had to say and the meaning of the Midrash Tanchuma became crystal clear. How far-reaching was his father's vision! "It is enough," he said to them, and he took his leave.

Many years later, when the Previous Rebbe related this story during a gathering on Passover he noted: "We can see from this story the power behind even one deed. Each and every good deed brings with it much good fortune. This story is a testimony as to the effects that all of our physical actions have."

Moshiach Matters

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch once said that Moshiach will delight in the company of unscholarly, self-sacrificing Jews. A unique chamber will be set aside for them, and they will be envied by the greatest of intellectuals.

(Igrot Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe)

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