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A custom established by the Rebbe is to get together with one's relatives and friends on a birthday to contemplate the meaning of the day and to make good resolutions for the coming year. In honor of the Rebbe's birthday on Yud Alef Nisan (11 Nisan-April 7 this year) Chasidim will be holding gatherings to reflect on their connection to the Rebbe and the significance of this special day. Let's listen in to what they have to say:
"Surely you realize that the Rebbe is a tzadik nistar, a hidden tzadik," says the Chasidic scholar. "How so?" his students ask. "The Rebbe is renowned throughout the world. Millions have come to him for his blessings. Heads of state have paid tribute to him. People continually seek the Rebbe's advice."
The scholar continues, "All that you say is true. But for all that we know and have seen and experienced of the Rebbe, there is much more of the Rebbe which remains hidden from view, beyond comprehension."
"How many Rebbes do you have?" the elder Chasid asks a novice. The young Chasid does not understand. He has one Rebbe. Isn't a Chasid one who is devoted heart, mind and soul to his Rebbe?
The elder Chasid continues, "The Rebbe is a great scholar of Talmud. At the same time he is a master of Kabala and the mystical aspects of Judaism. He is a source of guidance to the thousands of people the world over who turn to him. He is a leader who takes a stand on issues even when he knows that his position will not be popular. And he is a teacher, a prophet, a source of healing and inspiration. One can go on and on. So, how many Rebbes do you have? Are these all different qualities? Or can you see a united, harmonious whole?"
"The Rebbe is, in one word, reality. When speaking to, listening to, or reading the words of the Rebbe, one becomes transfixed by something that is truly real. No superficiality, no vanity, no gossip. There is a constant sense of urgency, a sense that our actions truly matter, that people really matter - that you and I, and everything we do, is of vital importance. And in a climate of cynicism and selfishness, it is more than revitalizing to experience a taste of such reality."
(Adapted from Toward A Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe by Rabbi Simon Jacobson)
A Lubavitcher yeshiva student sits with one of the Rebbe's emissaries in Latvia. After a day of bringing Jewish pride, awareness and the Rebbe's message of the imminent Redemption to Jews' doorsteps as he had done each summer in various communities around the globe, the student gets involved in a deep discussion with the emissary about what it means to be a Chasid.
"Would you be willing, like Chasidim of old, to accept a mission from the Rebbe even if you knew it could cost you your life?" the emissary asks.
Without a moment's hesitation, the student answers, "Yes." Speaking more quietly now, the emissary says, "OK, you're ready to die for the Rebbe. But are you ready to live for the Rebbe, to live your life the way the Rebbe wants?"
"Chasidic teachings," says the teacher to her students, "explain that 'Rebbe' is an acronym for Rosh B'nei Yisrael - Head of the Jewish People. The head directs and the feet, hands and mouth carry out the directives. Now, more than ever," she concludes, "it is our responsibility and privilege to be the Rebbe's feet, to run to help another Jew; to be his hands, to give more tzedaka; to be his mouth, to share more Torah thoughts and to demand that G-d send Moshiach, now!"
As these gatherings draw to a close, the time comes to translate words into action with a greater commitment to the things the Rebbe holds dear.
The Rebbe's life mission is to bring about the revelation of Moshiach and thereby the fulfillment of the purpose for which G-d created the world. By committing to do a mitzva, any mitzva, with the awareness that this mitzva is hastening the Redemption, we join with the Rebbe in making this goal a reality.
In this week's Torah portion, Tzav, we read, "A perpetual fire shall always be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out." The fire on the altar of the Holy Temple burned continually. It was never extinguished, as explained in the Jerusalem Talmud: "Perpetual-even on Shabbat; perpetual-even when the Jews were in a state of ritual impurity."
Every aspect of the physical Temple and its service has a counterpart in the spiritual Holy Temple that exists in the heart of every Jew. Accordingly, the verse "A perpetual fire shall always be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out" applies in both the spiritual as well as the literal sense.
The "altar" of the Jew's inner Sanctuary is his heart. And just as there were two altars in the Temple in Jerusalem, an inner and an outer one, so too is there an inner and an outer aspect to the Jew's heart.
The "perpetual fire" mentioned in the verse was lit on the outer altar of the Holy Temple. This fire, in spiritual terms, refers to a Jew's enthusiasm and ardor for serving G-d, his excitement when performing mitzvot and the joy with which he does them. This fire must be open and apparent and burn "perpetually," at all times. The Jewish heart must always be consumed with a fiery love for G-dliness and holiness.
On Shabbat we are commanded to refrain from working. It is forbidden to engage in any labor or involve ourselves in business affairs. Nonetheless, the fire on the altar of the Holy Temple continued to burn - "even on Shabbat." No matter how elevated a Jew feels on the Sabbath, no matter how intensely he experiences the holiness of the day, he must never assume that it is unnecessary to serve G-d with a fiery enthusiasm. His passion and fervor must not be permitted to die out, regardless of his level of spirituality.
The same principle applies to the opposite, if, G-d forbid, a Jew should feel himself estranged from G-d and His commandments, like the person in a state of spiritual uncleanliness who was prohibited from entering the Holy Temple. A Jew must never fall into despair. He must never be discouraged by his low spiritual standing and surrender the "perpetual fire" in his heart. For as we saw in the Holy Temple, even spiritual uncleanliness is incapable of extinguishing its flames.
"Perpetual - even in a state of ritual impurity." A Jew who finds himself in a compromising spiritual condition must take special care to guard his Jewish spark, fanning its glowing embers till it erupts in a roaring conflagration that consumes his entire being. As the Magid of Mezeritch explained, doing so will ensure that "it shall not go out." The negative forces in his life will disappear automatically, extinguished by the holy flames and nullified into nothingness.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 1
by Yehudis Cohen
"For seven years after we were married we weren't able to have children," begins Yocheved Daphna. There were no known medical causes, nor were there suggestions from the doctors she and her husband, Yehuda, had consulted.
Yocheved met someone who was close to Chabad who kept encouraging Yocheved to go to the Rebbe for a blessing. "I grew up in a 'Modern Orthodox' family and the whole concept of a Rebbe was foreign to us. But this person was persistent and I finally agreed. 'What could it hurt,' I figured."
Together with Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson of Tzivos Hashem, and the friend who had spoken to them about the Rebbe, the Daphna's came during "Sunday dollars," when the Rebbe was distributing dollars for tzedaka (charity). Yocheved recounts, "The Rebbe gave our friend three dollars and a blessing that he and his wife should have children. The Rebbe then gave my husband dollars for tzedaka and said, 'You should give these dollars when your wife becomes pregnant.' The Rebbe told me to relearn the laws of Taharat Hamishpacha (Family Purity)."
Six months passed and Yocheved had not become pregnant. During that time she had been hit by a bicycle while crossing the street, winding up with a broken knee, broken teeth and time in a wheel chair. "Rabbi Benjaminson told me that we should go back to the Rebbe again. But before hand we should have our mezuzot checked. We followed his advice and found that nine out of our ten mezuzot were not kosher."
Another four months passed and the Daphna's decided it was time to go to the Rebbe once again. On the Sunday, a week before they went to the Rebbe, Yocheved's parents went. "My younger brother's wife was pregnant with what was to be my parents' first grandchild. My mother had planned on asking the Rebbe for a blessing that everything should go well for my sister-in-law. On the spot, however, she got 'confused' and asked for a blessing that her daughter should have children. The Rebbe gave my mother three dollars.
"The following Sunday we went to the Rebbe," continues Yocheved. "Just days before we had attended the bris of our friends' triplets, the friend who had brought us to the Rebbe ten months earlier. I asked the Rebbe again for a blessing for children and the Rebbe told me, 'The Holy One Blessed is He is going to give you good news.' The Rebbe gave me three dollars. My husband had been unemployed for a year. He asked the Rebbe for a blessing for parnasa - livelihood. 'You will have truly good parnasa very soon,' the Rebbe told him. The Rebbe gave Yehuda three dollars."
Yehuda was involved in a deal to open a chain of frozen yogurt stores in Israel. He already had a 200 page agreement with the company. Yehuda decided to ask the Rebbe if his parnasa should be based in America or in Israel. The Rebbe told him, "You are here and you have to search for parnasa in the country you are in."
When they left the Rebbe, Yehuda told Yocheved, "But the business in Israel is a sure thing!"
Yocheved told him, "You can't believe that the Rebbe's blessing for children is true but what he has to say about your business deal isn't true!"
Before leaving Crown Heights the Daphna's purchased a book on Taharat Hamishpacha, to review the laws as the Rebbe had advised to Yocheved ten months earlier. "That month I became pregnant with triplets," says Yocheved.
When Yocheved was in her fourth month their house burned down. It was five days before Passover. They moved into Yocheved's parents home.
A month later, the doctor noticed in a sonogram that there was a hole in the heart of one of the triplets. "We wrote in to the Rebbe and the Rebbe's response was not to do any tests. We weren't such Chasidim then," Yocheved laughs, "so we did tests but only non-invasive ones. When the test was over, the specialist said there was no hole."
The Daphna triplets were born on 5 Elul, 1992, eight months after Yocheved became pregnant, 9 months to the day that the Daphna's had been to the Rebbe the second time. Their two sons had their bris on time, on the eight day.
"My husband was all the while looking for a business to invest in. The triplets were getting bigger. It was just over a year since our fire. We were paying a mortgage on a house that was uninhabitable. My husband was ready to close on a deal to buy a kosher pizza shop in a popular area and wrote to the Rebbe for a blessing. The Rebbe's secretary called us to say that the Rebbe's response had been, 'with mazal and blessing.'
"On our anniversary, which is 11 Nisan, we were working out the final details until 4:00 a.m. Then, all of a sudden, in the morning, the owners of the pizza shop called to say that they had decided not to sell. We were crushed," recalls Yocheved.
But, with a blessing from the Rebbe of 'You will have truly good parnasa very soon,' bigger things were in store for the Daphna's. Just hours later, Yehuda got a phone call from someone with whom he had incorporated a private security business 2 years previously, though they had never done anything with it. "We got a contract at a major airport. We need people, uniforms, equipment, within 6 to 8 weeks," his partner told him. Yehuda, whose 20 years of experience in Israeli intelligence had been the impetus for opening a security business, points out that the way the Rebbe had expressed the blessing for parnasa 2 1/2 years before had been unusual. The Rebbe had told Yehuda to "search" for (rather than "find") parnasa. And that is what Yehuda's successful business, thank G-d, is today: "Searching" for security's sake.
Rambam for 9 Nisan, 5758
Positive Commandment 1: Believing in G-d
By this mitzva we are commanded to believe that there is a Supreme Cause who is the Creator of everything in existence. This commandment is based on the verse (Ex. 20:2), "I am the L-rd, your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt."
Prohibition 1: Not to believe that anything else has the power of G-d except for G-d. By this prohibition we are forbidden to believe in, or ascribe the power of G-d, to any but G-d. This mitzva is based on the verse, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Ex. 20:3).
12th of Nisan, 5741 
Greeting and Blessing:
On the occasion of the forthcoming Yom Tov Pesach [Passover holiday], I send you my prayerful wishes that the Festival of Our Freedom brings you and yours true freedom, freedom from anxiety, material and spiritual, from anything which might distract from serving G-d wholeheartedly and with joy, and to carry over this freedom and joy into the whole year.
Wishing you and yours a happy and kosher Pesach.
P.S. It was a pleasure to see you at the farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] on the occasion of the 11th of Nisan, and exchange l'chayim blessings.
Although it is not customary nor proper to ask for a birthday gift, but considering our special relationship, I venture to do so, being confident that you will treat it in the proper spirit.
The birthday gift that I have in mind, which I would consider an honor, as well as a great pleasure, is that you devote a quarter of an hour of your time every weekday morning and dedicate it for the sacred purpose of putting on tefilin, with the appropriate prayer that goes with it, such as the Shema and the like. The latter need not be necessarily recited in Hebrew. If you can manage this in ten minutes, I am prepared to forego five minutes and let it be only ten minutes of your time.
In addition to the thing itself, being one of the greatest mitzvot, as our Sages said that the whole Torah was compared to it, the mitzva of putting on tefilin on the left arm, facing the heart, and on the head, the seat of the intellect, has the special Divine quality of purifying the heart and the mind, emotion and reason, and bringing them into the proper balance and harmony. While this is important for every Jew, it is certainly of special significance to one whose normal activities involve a great deal of mental and emotional strain, and it is highly important to have them in the proper balance for the utmost degree of efficiency.
The above is of additional significance in your case as chairman of the board of ........, in which you have had such remarkable hatzlacha [success], with G-d's help, and have been able to involve many others to follow in your footsteps. Thus, this "birthday gift" would also have a salutary effect on the institution, its administration and students, and further widen the channels for all concerned to receive G-d's blessings materially and spiritually.
I trust that you put on tefilin every morning in any case, and the reason I am asking you the above is only that you should make it a definite point on your calendar to make sure that your preoccupation with your personal business and the business of the Rabbinical College would not distract you even once to overlook the putting on of tefilin. And this will be my reward.
P.P.S. Although in matters of ........, I usually send a copy to our distinguished mutual friend Rabbi ........, I am not sending him a copy of this letter, considering its personal nature. I leave it to you whether you wish to show it to him.
ALL-EXPENSE PAID WEDDING
Do you know of a worthy couple planning to get married in December 1998 who could benefit from an all-expense paid wedding? Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Cong. Beth Sholom Chabad of Mineola, Long Island, will officiate at a traditional Jewish wedding aired live on Sunday evening, Dec. 13, 1998, during the Chanuka Telethon Spectacular on WLNY TV 55. The wedding is being sponsored by the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education of Nassau County in an effort to educate as many people as possible on the meaning and depth of a Jewish marriage.
The NCFJE is seeking nominations of a deserving couple from around the USA. All are invited to submit a letter of 300 words or less, explaining why they feel the couple merits this honor. The couple need not be affiliated or well-versed in Hebrew or Jewish customs. Nominations must be sent to NCFJE, 261 Willis Ave., Mineola, NY 11501 or email@example.com by May 1, 1998 For more info call Rabbi Perl at (516) 739-3636.
On the 11th of Nisan (falling this year on April 7), we will begin reciting the 97th chapter of Psalms in honor of the Rebbe's 97th year.
The Psalm begins, "When the L-rd will reveal His Kingship, the earth will exult..." This first verse sets the tone for the entire Psalm, for G-d's Kingship will be openly revealed for all to see in the Messianic Era. Thus, the subsequent verses are all connected to the Redemption.
Let us delve into a few of the verses to understand better the great import of this Psalm.
The fourth verse begins, "His lightning bolts will illuminate the world..."
One commentator quotes Maimonides to explain this verse as follows: Most people sincerely seek the correct path in life. On rare occasions G-d illuminates our minds and hearts with a flash of perception like a lightening bolt. With this insight we are guided through the darkness, though it envelopes us once more. In the future, however, G-d will grant us perpetual insight and understanding as it states here, "His lighting bolts illuminate the world-constantly.
In verse 11 we read: "Light is sown for the tzadik, and joy for the upright in heart."
Rashi explains these words literally: G-d sows light for the tzadik and the light is ready to sprout forth. Sforno explains that the light will be reaped in the days of Moshiach. The light, the sparks of G-dliness sown throughout the world when it was created, are elevated and reunited with their Source through our observance of mitzvot. The bountiful produce of our spiritual farming will be reaped by all in the Messianic Era.
It would seem from the way this verse is constructed that some have light, others have joy, but no one has both. However, the Rebbe explains that the two are most certainly interconnected, for "light" ultimately leads to joy. G-d has given us a way to illuminate the darkness: Torah and mitzvot about which it says, "A mitzva is a candle and Torah is light." This light illuminates our way and ultimately allows one to achieve and experience true joy.
This Psalm is also the third recited in the prayers welcoming the Sabbath. Three is a chazaka -- a strengthening. Even before we commence saying this Psalm in honor of the Rebbe, may we merit to welcome not only Shabbat, but the "day which is entirely Shabbat and peace for all eternity" the Messianic Era, with the revelation of Moshiach, now.
And G-d spoke to Moses...Command Aaron (Lev. 6:1,2)
As Rashi explains, a command is meant to encourage and spur a person on. As a general rule, whenever one is obligated to do a mitzva, the evil inclination immediately tries to prevent him from fulfilling G-d's command. This is why our Sages said: "Greater is he who is commanded and performs an action than one who is not commanded and performs the same action." It is much easier to do a non-obligatory mitzva than an obligatory one.
(Rabbi Hershel of Cracow)
This is the Torah (law) of the burnt offering ("ola," lit. "which ascends"), the burnt offering which shall be burning upon the altar (Lev. 6:2)
The great Chasidic masters explained: What kind of Torah learning truly ascends on high? That which "burns upon the altar" - Torah that is studied with a burning and fiery enthusiasm. Nonetheless, the mem of the word "mokda" (altar) is smaller than the other letters, to teach us that our ardor must be inwardly contained and not demonstrated outwardly beyond a tiny light.
A perpetual fire shall be burning on the altar, it shall not go out (Lev. 6:6)
A Jew must be careful to preserve the spark of his attachment to G-d throughout the day, thus ensuring that the love he feels for the Creator can be easily rekindled at any time. If, however, the spark is allowed to cool off, the "fire" must be re-lit whenever he wishes to pray or study Torah.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
And any earthen vessel in which it may have been boiled shall be broken (Lev. 6:21)
An earthen vessel that has been used to cook non-kosher food and absorbed its flavor cannot be made kosher; it must be shattered. Similarly, the heart of a person who has become accustomed to sin must be "broken" before he can become pure.
Continued from the Slice of Life of the previous issue (512)
Many people assumed that because Rabbi Hirschprung was a Talmudic giant and expert in all areas of Jewish law, his connection to the Rebbe was purely intellectual. After all, the Rebbe had described Rabbi Hirschprung as "a living Torah scroll." Perhaps Rabbi Hirschprung was only impressed by the Rebbe's scholarship?
Nothing could be further from the truth, as the following stories illustrate.
Rabbi Hirschprung always attended all of the Rebbe's major farbrengens (gatherings at which the Rebbe would teach for hours with breaks for soulful singing of Chasidic melodies). After the Rebbe's heart attack on Simchat Torah, 1977, Rabbi Hirschprung feared that the Rebbe would not be well enough to speak at the annual gathering on 19 Kislev, the "New Year of Chasidut." His joy, according to Rabbi Meir Plotkin, who accompanied him from Montreal to New York for the farbrengens, was indescribable when he found out that the Rebbe would farbreng after all.
On the way back to Montreal, Rabbi Hirschprung spoke continuously about the great privilege everyone has of attending one of the Rebbe's farbrengens. "Only a fool could go to sleep after such a farbrengen," Rabbi Hirschprung said. "One should go out into the street and dance from joy, that we merited to have a farbrengen with the Rebbe so soon after what happened."
"What have you seen in the Rebbe that you didn't see in anyone else?" Rabbi Plotkin once asked Rabbi Hirschprung.
"There are two things which set the Rebbe apart," Rabbi Hirschprung cited. "The Rebbe's Torah knowledge and that he is the true leader of the generation. Pinchas Hirschprung is not impressed by the title 'gaon' [Torah giant]. He knows who deserves the title. And I am telling you that there is nobody like the Rebbe, not only in our generation but even in earlier generations. I was with the gaon Rabbi Meir Shapiro in Lublin, with the gaon Rabbi Menachem Zemba, and all the gaonim of the previous generation. I found no one comparable to the Rebbe's greatness in all areas of Torah."
A few years ago, Rabbi Hirschprung's wife became ill. Upon being examined, the doctors told her that a malignant growth had been found and that she would have to undergo an operation to remove it. The doctors said the situation was critical and it was doubtful whether the operation would help.
Rabbi Hirschprung was broken by the news. People were shocked by the change in him. Gone was the active, energetic man. In his place was a debilitated, lifeless person. He stopped coming to decide points of Jewish law at the Rabbinical Court and did not speak to anyone at the yeshiva. The only thing he did not neglect was the general class that he gave, but even this was given without his usual enthusiasm.
A short while later, Rabbi Hirschprung was back to his old self. Months later, Rabbi Hirschprung's daughter related to one of his students the cause for this turnaround:
"My father is a great chasid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Not only is he a chasid, but he is connected heart and soul with the Rebbe. I don't know if you can find a greater chasid than my father! Even though my father does not follow the customs of Chabad, nor does he use the Chabad prayerbook, I am sure that there is no chasid or mekushar (one who is connected) like my father.
When my mother's health was precarious, my father's state of mind was terrible. One day I was with my parents when a letter from the Rebbe came in the mail. My father was sitting and learning. When I told my father that a letter had arrived from the Rebbe, he got up and went to the kitchen to wash his hands. he put on his hat and jacket and then stood and read the Rebbe's letter.
"My father hurried to my mother's room and told my mother, 'I just got a letter from the Rebbe. At the end the Rebbe added a few handwritten lines which say: "Regarding what you wrote about your wife - it is only the counsel of the yetzer hara [evil inclination] who wants to weaken you. Therefore, don't pay attention to this, for it isn't true at all but the claim of the yetzer. He and his wife will merit length of days and good years." '
"Father stood near mother, and said, 'Thank G-d there is a Rebbe and the Rebbe says you are well. So, you are well, and there's nothing to worry about.'
"I couldn't believe my eyes. In an instant, my father had changed from one extreme to the other. He immediately got back to himself and became the enthusiastic, active, lively person he had been before.
"In the weeks that followed until my mother's full recovery, things were upside-down. We were the worried ones, while you couldn't tell from my father that his wife wasn't exactly well.
"Even on the day of the operation, when they wheeled my mother into the operating room and we were all so concerned, my father didn't have a care in the world. He simply didn't understand why we were worried. 'The Rebbe said that she is healthy,' he kept repeating.
"And when the doctors said that they didn't find any growth and we jumped for joy, my father didn't understand what the commotion was about. He had already known she was well."
If a king will arise from the House of David, who, like David his ancestor, delves deeply into the study of the Torah and engages in the mitzvot as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in its observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d; - we may, with assurance, consider him Moshiach.