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L'Chaim
December 5, 1997 - 6 Kislev 5758

496: Vayeitzei

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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.


  495: Toldos497: Vayishlach  

America Recycles  |  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

America Recycles

November 15 was "America Recycles Day." Advertising (on recycled paper, of course) encouraged people to get involved: "You're invited to begin, enhance or support recycling and to buy recycled products."

On their web-page (no white paper there to worry about recycling), some concrete suggestions for how to celebrate America Recycles Day were made, among them: Commit to "buy recycled" at home and at work; think before you buy. Reduce. Reuse. Re-cycle; Start a paper recycling program in your office, school, or community; Ask your local recycling coordinator about adding additional materials to your community's recycling program; Tell your local retailers you want them to stock more products made from recycled materials; Encourage the use of recycled-content products in your business or school; Visit a nearby recycling facility or landfill.

What is our responsibility toward recycling as Jews living in today's world?

The Midrash (Ecclesiastics Rabba) states: In the hour when G-d created the first person, He took him and let him pass before all the trees of the garden of Eden, and said to him: See My works, how fine and excellent they are! Now all that I have created for you have I created. Think upon this and do not corrupt and desolate My world; for if you corrupt it, there is no one to set it right after you.

From this teaching it is clear that G-d created the world for people to inhabit and use, but with the understanding that we act responsibly toward all of creation.

Is there, perhaps, more that we can learn from recycling? As everything we see and hear is a lesson for us in our G-dly service, can we learn from the suggestions concerning America Recycles Day?

Commit to "buy recycled" at home and at work: Being a Jew requires a commitment. And that commitment is for home and for work, the two places where we spend most of the 24 hours of our days. Living Jewishly shouldn't be relegated to the time spent in the synagogue or certain holidays.

Think before you buy. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle: Think before you buy into the latest pop-psychology or new-age spirituality. Ask yourself, "Will this reduce my connection to G-d? Should I reuse, i.e., re- experience and reapply, Jewish traditions before I 'buy' new ones. Can I recycle, rescue, save customs that have been in our family for generations?"

Start a paper recycling program in your office, school, or community: Jewish living is best experienced with others. Start a class in your office, school or community.

Ask your local recycling coordinator about adding additional materials to your community's recycling program: Discuss with your family adding additional mitzvot to your "local" Jewish program.

Tell your local retailers you want them to stock more products made from recycled materials: If you can do it for recycling, you can do it for kosher products in supermarkets, Jewish books in national book store chains, modest clothing in boutiques.

Encourage the use of recycled-content products in your business or school: Reach out to other Jews and encourage them to get more involved in things Jewish. We are encouraged to share every bit of knowledge we have; even if all you know is the letter 'alef,' you should teach it to someone who doesn't even know alef.

Visit a nearby recycling facility or landfill: Visit Jewish sites and scenes. Jewish museums are great, but visit places where Judaism is alive. Tour unique Jewish communities. Go to a matza bakery. Spend a Shabbat in a neighborhood where everyone's doing it. See what the inside of a mikva looks like. Attend a giant menora lighting ceremony this Chanuka.

"You're invited to begin studying Torah, enhance the observance of mitzvot, and support similar efforts of friends, family and co-workers."


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read about Jacob's departure from the Land of Israel for Charan and his subsequent dealings with Laban.

The first thing the Torah tells us is that "he reached a certain place," i.e., Jacob prayed. We then learn that Jacob worked for Laban for 20 years, married, and fathered the Twelve Tribes. Then, on his way back to Israel, Jacob was met by "angels of G-d."

The Torah is not a book of stories, G-d forbid. The word Torah is derived from hora'a, Hebrew for teaching, as the events that the Torah relates are a guide for us to apply in our daily lives.

Just as Jacob left the sanctity of the Land of Israel and his Torah studies to go to Charan at G-d's command, so too is every Jew enjoined to go out into the world and involve himself with "Laban the Aramaean."

A Jew must never isolate himself within the "four cubits of Torah study," but must leave "the Land of Israel" -- his preoccupation with G-dliness and holiness -- to travel to even the lowest places on earth in order to draw his fellow Jews closer to G-d and to mitzvot. And, like Jacob, the Jew must always conduct himself like a tzadik (righteous person), even in "Charan," the most trying and difficult of circumstances.

The first thing Jacob did upon leaving the Holy Land was "vayifga bamakom -- and he reached a certain place." Jacob actively sought out Hamakom (referring to G-d), and was indeed rewarded with a revelation of G-dliness that came to him in a dream.

Years later, however, when Jacob left Charan to return to Israel, there was no need for him to seek G-d out, for "he was met there by angels of G-d." After 20 years of G-dly service in Charan Jacob did not have to initiate the search; the angels and G-d Himself came to him! Indeed, Jacob merited an even higher revelation of G-dliness, one that occurred while he was awake and not while dreaming.

When a Jew goes out toward "Charan," spreading Judaism and drawing his fellow Jews nearer to G-d, his departure from the rarefied world of G-dliness and holiness is not a descent, but in actuality, constitutes a very great ascent. In Charan, Jacob merited both physical and spiritual success, as it states, "And the man increased exceedingly."

When a Jew is "in the Land of Israel" -- involved in his own spiritual perfection to the exclusion of others, no matter how great his achievements he can never attain the level that is reached through the service in "Charan." For it is only when he goes out into the world to draw his fellow Jews closer to G-d that he merits a much higher degree of both material and spiritual success.

Adapted by Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 3


A Slice of Life

We are publishing this article, reprinted from the American Jewish World, Minneapolis, Minnesota, in tribute to the Rebbe's Shluchim (Emissaries) who gathered at Lubavitch World Headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, over the weekend of November 27 through December 1 for the International Convention of Shluchim
by Rabbi Moshe Feller

Chasidim are always being asked to define, "What is a chasid?" Most people who ask the question know that chasidim are followers of a "Rebbe" -- in my case, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. However, many Jews consider themselves followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, yet do not consider themselves chasidim.

So what is a "chasid"? I've struggled to answer this question and to refine my definitions.

A moment I had a few years ago with a prominent S. Paul businessman and supermarket executive, a member of one of S. Paul's foremost Jewish families, Hy Appelbaum, who passed away last week, brought home to me most poignantly "what is a chasid."

I shared this moment with Hy's family when visiting with them during their shiva observance, and since one of my tasks as area director of the Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidic movement is to define "what is a chasid," I want to share this moment with you as well.

During the past few years, I had been visiting with the aging Mr. Appelbaum in his home. His wife, Janice, may she live and be well, would call me to pick up a pushke (charity box) which she and her husband would fill to the brim in support of our projects. Mrs. Appelbaum would ask me to visit with Hy and pick up his sagging spirits in the face of his deteriorating health. I would help Hy put on tefilin and we would talk about the Rebbe and his outreach work all over the world. Seemingly, my visits had a good effect on Hy.

One day, I was asked to visit Hy in the hospital. I was warned that his health had deteriorated to the point that he probably would not recognize me.

I walked into Hy's room and asked him, "Hy, do you recognize me? Do you know who I am?"

Hy looked at me and said softly, "You're a rabbi." "Which rabbi am I?" I continued to ask. Hy replied, "You are...you are.. you're Rabbi Schneerson."

Hy's response hit me like a thunderbolt. I was ecstatic! It dawned on me then and there the best definition of "what is a chasid." A chasid is one who in all of his relationships is a conduit of his Rebbe's teachings and sacred aura. A chasid is one who in all of his projections strives to have his Rebbe's presence felt far more than his own.

At least with one S. Paul Jew, I had achieved this.

"Hy, you made my day!" I exclaimed. In one brief moment, Hy Appelbaum clarified a concept which I had been struggling to define for over three decades! I was truly grateful to him. May his memory be for a blessing.

Rabbi Feller is the director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Upper Mid- West, headquartered in S. Paul, Minnesota.


A Call To Action

Jewish books in the home

Torah books in the home, aside from their intrinsic worth for study, are also a visible reminder of our Holy Torah, both to the inhabitants, and to all who enter. Furthermore, having Jewish books in the home, at least the basic Chumash (Five Books of the Torah), prayerbook and Psalms, enhances the security of the home and family. Displayed in a conspicuous place in the home, Torah books remind the Jew of what is written in them, i.e., that the Torah and mitzvot are "Our life and the length of our days."


The Rebbe Writes

19 Cheshvan, 5715 [1954]

I was pleased to receive your letter of Nov. 3rd in which you write the good news that you have ordered a shaitel [wig] during your recent visit in New York. The Almighty will surely fulfill His promise, as it is written in the holy Zohar, that it will bring hatzlacha [success] to you, your husband and children in good health and prosperity, especially in your case, where in addition to the deed itself there is also a Kiddush Hashem [sanctification of G-d's name].

I am sure you will wear it with joy, and as the Baal Shem Tov emphasized "the importance of serving the Almighty with joy," G-d's blessings will be even greater.

I want to add my prayerful wishes that the Almighty grant you the zechut [merit] to be instrumental in making your friends and acquaintances follow your example, which you will support also by other forms of influence. Not only does the shaitel show the true Jewish spirit of adherence to our laws and customs, but it also shows strength of character and will and the power of conviction, not being swayed by external influences and the opinion of people who are rather devoid of content inwardly and even outwardly are of no consequence.

4th of Adar II, 5738 [1978]

Your letter of Jan. 29th reached me with some delay. I was pleased to read in it about your advancing in Yiddishkeit [Judaism].

Since it is human nature that ambition grows with achievement, as our Rabbis express it, "He who has 100, desires 200, and (having attained) 200, desires 400," may G-d grant that your achievements in Yiddishkeit should stimulate you to ever greater accomplishments in Torah and mitzvot. In addition to this being a must in itself, it is also a very practical way to fulfill the mitzva of "Ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha" ["and you shall love your neighbor as yourself"], being an inspiring example and influence to all around you.

Needless to say, when a Jew makes a firm resolution to live up to the Torah and mitzvot in daily life, nothing stands in the way of the will, and there is the assurance "make the effort, and you will succeed."

The zechut of the Holy Land will additionally stand you in good stead, in this and in all your needs...

P.S. Your using the term "modern orthodoxy" prompts me to make the following observation.

Although this term is frequently used, if you reflect on it you will realize the inner contradiction in terms. For, orthodoxy refers to a full commitment to a life regulated by the Torah, Torat Emet [the Torah of Truth], and its mitzvot, by which Jews live. Whereas "modern" implies a compromise and adjustment supposedly in keeping with "modern" ideas. But where truth is concerned, there can be no compromise or accommodation, for even 99% of truth is not the whole truth, and therefore not truth at all.

Needless to say, 99% is better than 98%, but one must not delude oneself in believing that it is the whole truth. Indeed, the Rambam rules that if a Jew accepts the whole Torah except for one letter, he is deemed as if he denied the whole Torah. And one of the explanations of it is, as mentioned above, that truth and compromise are contradictory.

The above does not mean that unless a Jew observes all the 613 mitzvot, he is not an observant Jew. Indeed, the Torah declares, "A Jew, though he has sinned, remains a Jew." It states further than no sinner is rejected, and eventually everyone who had strayed will return to the fold. What is emphasized above is that any thought that the Torah is in any way "outdated" and needs to be "modernized" is heresy and a denial of the Divine origin and eternal nature of the Torah and mitzvot. There is surely no need to elaborate to you further on the above.


What's New

ASCENT SEMINARS

Ascent of Safed offers experiences of Jewish lifestyle and mysticism through their seminars. Their 22 yearly seminars include study of mystical texts as well as a walking tour of Safed. Some seminars also include a half-day nature hike of the ancient city of Safed and its environs. Upcoming events include a "Lights of Chanuka" seminar on Dec. 25 - 28, "The Genius of Maimonides" which includes a pilgrimage to Maimonides' burial place in Tiberias January 16 - 18 and a Mystical Tu B'Shvat Seder February 10 - 11. For more info call 972-6-692-1364 or email ascent@actcom.co.il

A DREAM COME TRUE

Chabad Lubavitch of the Upper East Side (New York City) has just purchased a property at 419 East 77th Street. The building, when renovated, will include a state-of-the-art mikva, a fully equipped pre-school (with indoor and outdoor play areas), and a community center. Internationally acclaimed architect Mark Khidekel has been chosen for this exciting project. For more information call Rabbi Ben Tzion Krasnianski at (212) 717-4613 or email Chabadues@aol.com

TUESDAY NIGHT TORAH

Every Tuesday night at the new Chabad House/Jewish Student Organization at Rutgers University (New Jersey) is Torah learning with a twist. With free food as part of the headline, students can attend (on alternating weeks) Pizza 'n Paradigms, Fast Food 'n Philosophy or Falafel 'n Philosophy. Of course, the Chabad House also offers Cafe Nights, Friday night "dinner parties," holiday services, spiritual counseling, lectures, the list goes on. For more information call 908- 296-1800.


A Word from the Director

This coming week contains two significant dates in the life of the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber, known as the Mitteler Rebbe. The ninth of Kislev marks both his birth and passing. The tenth of Kislev is the anniversary of his liberation from prison.

A story is told of Reb Dov Ber just before his passing. In the summer of 1827, at the age of 54, he set out on the long journey to the city of Haditch to visit at the gravesite of his father, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chasidut. Throughout the journey he remained stern and uncommunicative, refraining from the Chasidic discourses that his disciples anxiously awaited. Whenever he attempted to commit some of his Chasidic teachings in writing, some mishap would occur, such as the pen falling out of his hand. He saw this as an indication of stern Heavenly judgement, and hinted to his chasidim of his imminent demise.

"My father was 54 years old when he was imprisoned in St. Petersburg for the second time," he said. "At the time two alternatives were offered to him from heaven: suffering or death. He chose suffering. It seems that the other he left for me. "

Reb Dov Ber arrived in Haditch in time for the High Holy Days, and visited his father's gravesite a few times during his stay. During the return trip he fell ill in the city of Niezhin, where the most respected physicians prescribed complete rest to the extent of refraining from reciting Chasidic discourses, which caused his health to deteriorate further. By the beginning of Kislev he seemed completely lacking in vitality, but, as one of his doctors pointed out to another, when he was allowed to say a Chasidic discourse, he immediately sat up with his face aflame and asked to be moved to a chair. The Chasidim gathered to the house to hear him speak. From this we see proof of the oft-repeated statement about Reb Dov Ber: "If his finger would have been cut, it would have bled Chasidut instead of blood."

Chasidut was the lifeforce of Reb Dov Ber. May his teachings continue to sustain us as well.


Thoughts that Count

And Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you, than that I should give her to another man." (Gen. 29:19)

Laban was very eager for his daughter to marry Jacob. He knew that both Jacob and his daughter Rachel were righteous. If they were to marry other people, then surely Jacob would influence his wife to become righteous and Rachel would do the same for her husband. If that happened then Laban, a wicked person, would have to contend with four righteous people! But if Jacob and Rachel married each other, he'd only have to deal with the two of them.

(Reb Bunim M'Pshischa)

And Laban called it "Yagar Sehaduta," but Jacob called it "Galeed." And Laban said, "This heap of stones is a witness between me and you this day." Therefore, he called it Galeed. (Gen. 31:47-48)

Laban called the place by one name, and then automatically changed his mind and gave it the name that Jacob chose. Laban was eager to make peace with Jacob, but he wanted it to be done in his own language. Jacob told Laban that if he wanted peace it would have to be on his terms and in his language. When Laban saw that Jacob refused to back down, he agreed to his terms.

(Sforno)

And he came to the place and spent the night there because the sun went down, he took some stones from the place and put them at his head, and he lay down on that place (Gen. 28:10)

The place that the verse refers to three times is Mt. Moriah, which would later be the site of the Holy Temples, and it is written three times to represent the three Holy Temples. The first time it says "the sun went down" which corresponds to the destruction of the first Temple. The second time it says "he took some of the stones" because the Second Temple had only some of the holiness of the First Temple. The third time it says "and he lay down in that place," which refers to the Third Temple which will be built when Moshiach comes, for then we will be able to rest and serve G-d in peace.

(Abarbanel)

Adapted from Vedibarta Bam


It Once Happened

The great yeshiva of Volozhin, like every other Torah institution was supported largely by the donations -- large and small -- of good- hearted Jews. The charity collector himself was a poor man who made his rounds of the villages, thus making a living for himself as well as the yeshiva. Once, when it was time to begin his trip, it dawned on him that he would make a much better impression on his potential contributors if he were dressed for the part. What must people think of him when he comes to their door dressed like a pauper. Why, it even reflected badly on the yeshiva, he thought.

With these new ideas in mind, the fund-raiser suggested to Reb Chaim, the head of the yeshiva, that he be outfitted in a respectable new suit. They were quick to agree to that request, but then he had another idea. Perhaps, he speculated, a horse and carriage would also help in his collection, for not only would it give him a better appearance, but it would enable him to get around more efficiently and cover more ground. Again, his point was well taken, and he received what he wanted.

The charity collector, outfitted like a gentleman now, felt an extra burst of energy as he set on his trip. The first stop he made was at the home of a certain wealthy peasant who had always been very generous with his donations. This time, however, it was a different story: the peasant was closed fisted and refused to give even a penny. The charity collector was baffled; now he was properly prepared for his job, and he met with a cold shoulder.

Disappointed and confused, the collector returned to Reb Chaim and confessed that his idea hadn't produced the intended results. Soon after, Reb Chaim himself visited the villager. He was greeted with all the honor and respect due a great scholar and he exchanged small talk with the peasant. But then he asked the pointed question which, after all, was the purpose of his visit: "Why have you stopped supporting the yeshiva?"

The peasant said, "Well, Rabbi, before when I gave money to the yeshiva, I was certain that it was going to a good cause, that I was actually supporting yeshiva students' learning. I felt happy with my deed, for I want to increase the learning of the holy Torah. But now, I see that I was wrong. This time, when your collector came to me, I saw a well-dressed man driving a new carriage. This is not where I want my money to be going, for such unnecessary and wasteful extras!"

Reb Chaim shook his head in agreement. "You know, you make sense, and I agree with you, but allow me to explain the true situation to you. You certainly know that it is written about Betzalel, who constructed the Sanctuary when the Jews were wandering in the desert, 'And I filled him with the spirit of G-d, with knowledge, intelligence and wisdom to know...to do creative labor...in gold and silver and copper.'

"From this verse, you might imagine that all the contributions that were given by the people were used in the actual construction of the Holy of Holies, but that is obviously not the case. The gifts which the people gave were used in all aspects of the building. Betzalel had the Divinely-inspired insight to see the intention of each individual donor. Those whose intentions were purely for the glory of Hashem's name, merited that their contributions be directly for the Holy of Holies. For those whose gifts were given with the intention of enhancing their own reputations or importance, the donations went for other aspects of the Sanctuary. It all depended on the sincerity and purity of intent on behalf of the contributors.

"The same applies here," continued Reb Chaim. "Your donation was always made with a pure heart, and so, the money you gave to the yeshiva directly supported Torah study. There are others, though, whose motivations may be a little less pure. Sure, they want to help the yeshiva, but at the same time, they want honor for themselves. It is the contributions of these people which go to support other aspects of the yeshiva management. You see, the appearance of our tzedaka collector and his means of transportation are also important in their own right, even though in a lesser way than the actual maintenance of our students."

The wealthy peasant was well pleased with Reb Chaim's explanation. "Rabbi, thank you so much for telling me this. The truth is that I felt very bad refusing the man, and now that I know my money will be used properly, I am ready to make my usual donation."


Moshiach Matters

If the Jewish people are found worthy as a result of their teshuva and good deeds, and have completely separated the good from the evil in the universe so that all the holy sparks that had fallen amongst the kelipot have been extricated, then the Redemption will come before "the time of the end," of which the angel speaks to Daniel

(Shaarei Ora of the Mitteler Rebbe)


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