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L'Chaim
October 16, 1998 - 26 Tishrei, 5759

539: Bereshit

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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.


  538: Succos540: Noach  

Whose Clone?  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Whose Clone?

by Rabbi Levi Osdoba

Since the news came from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland nearly two years ago about the successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly from an adult cell, the possibility of cloning people has become an interesting topic of conversation. Much has been said by scientists and researchers about its practical possibility, while others have shared their thoughts regarding the morals and ethics behind cloning humans.

As the technology of cloning continues to develop, the possibility of cloning people like you and me becomes more of a reality.

Last April, Dolly gave birth to Bonnie, "made the old-fashioned way," as noted by the media. More recently, researchers from the University of Hawaii announced that they had cloned more than 50 mice, some of which were cloned from mice that had been produced through cloning ("clonees").

Consider the logistics of cloning people. Every human cell contains within it the entire genetic code programmed onto its DNA strand. Nevertheless, all of the thousands of features encoded on the strand are "silenced" except for the one code needed for that particular organ. In the process of cloning a person, although a single cell with only one active code has been taken from a body, the entire genetic code would be "re-activated," thereby enabling it to produce a duplicate of the cell-donor, resulting in a carbon copy of the cloner.

Concerning the cloning of people, a frequently discussed question is, "Who should be cloned?"

I would add a new twist to the discussion: "If you could be a clonee, from whom would you want to be cloned?"

With this question in mind, I propose that the cloning of humans is actually old news. In fact, it goes back to the very beginning of time and the first people. For we are all, spiritually, clones of G-d, as it says in Genesis, "G-d created man in His image. In the image of G-d He created him, male and female, He created them."

Based on a verse in the Book of Job (31:2), Chasidic philsophy teaches that a Jewish soul does not merely emanate or originate from G-d, but is an actual part of G-d. The soul, then, is similar to a cell which is taken to produce a model of itself.

The fact that the soul is a part of G-d, however, does not mean that we are automatically "like Him." The "genetic features" and awesome characteristics of G-d are certainly contained within each soul. But they can, unfortunately, be silent. In order to be "like G-d," to be a clonee of G-d, we must work at activating all of the codes which, for various reasons, may be silent.

How do we go about activating the Divine DNA codes that are intrinsically within each one of us? The Talmudic Sage Abba Shaul, in explaining the verse in Exodus (15:2), "This is my G-d and I will glorify Him," suggests, "Be like Him. Just as He is gracious and compassionate, so too shall you be gracious and com-passionate." The great Torah scholar Rashi explains the verse (Deut. 11:22), "To walk in all His ways," by stating, "He is merciful, you should be merciful. He acts kindly, you should act kindly." No moral/ethical questions come into play when we actively try to be clonees of G-d.

An additional thought on cloning, prompted by the University of Hawaii's announcement of having successfully cloned mice from mice clonees: One should not be satisfied with his own personal attempt at becoming a clone of G-d. One should try to have an influence on others as well, that they too, will activate their Divine DNA and become clonees of G-d.

Rabbi Osdoba is program director of Chabad of Binghamton, New York.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Bereishit, G-d warns Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

The Midrash relates that this command was given to Adam on Friday afternoon, and that it was to remain in effect only until Shabbat began. On Shabbat, the fruit would be permitted. The entire prohibition against eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was to have applied for a period of just three hours.

As we know, Adam was unable to restrain himself. He transgressed G-d's command and ate from the Tree.

We may ask a valid question: How is it possible that Adam, whom G-d Himself had created only hours before - "the handiwork of the Holy One, Blessed Be He" - could not control himself for three hours?

The answer lies in the yetzer hara, the evil inclination. The sole purpose of the evil inclination is to challenge a person by attempting to prevent him from performing G-d's commandments, thereby causing him to go against G-d's will.

Significantly, the evil inclination's efforts are in direct proportion to the importance of the mitzva. The more important the commandment or the greater in spiritual stature the individual, the harder the evil inclination will work to lure him into its trap.

We see this for ourselves. It often happens that a person will encounter a mitzva that is very easy to perform, yet the evil inclination will suddenly rear its ugly head to stop him from doing it. Why? Because that particular mitzva is especially important to that person's soul, and the evil inclination will expend great effort to prevent him from fulfilling it.

This, in essence, is what happened to Adam. The commandment to refrain from eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was a simple one, but because Adam's compliance was so crucial (as the dire consequences of his sin attest), the evil inclination was determined to cause him to fall short.

From this we learn that a person must never make his own decisions as to which mitzvot are more significant than others. A Jew must never say, "This mitzva is an important one so I will fulfill it to the best of my ability, whereas this mitzva is a lesser one, and the bare minimum is good enough." Quite often a mitzva that appears to us as less significant is of enormous importance, and failing to perform it will lead to a great spiritual deterioration.

A Jew must observe all of G-d's commandments in the most beautiful and stringent manner he can, without making distinctions between them.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 3


A Slice of Life

DOING IT ALL

Dina Dick

by Yehudis Cohen

From the time Dr. Dina Dick was a small child, she wanted to become a doctor. Now in her late 20s, Dr. Dick is an M.D., wife, mother and Lubavitcher chasid.

"My parents sent me to an Orthodox Day School and gave me a strong Jewish identity. I grew up in a traditional Jewish home. We kept kosher in our home but not outside. We drove to the synagogue every Shabbat. At the age of Bat Mitzva, I decided that when I got older, I wanted to be more observant. At the time, I didn't know all that entailed."

Throughout her teen years, Dr. Dick moved slowly but determinedly toward the two goals she had set for herself. Little by little, for instance, she began keeping kosher. At first, she started by eating only vegetarian food out, then eating only in vegetarian restaurants, and eventually only ventured into restaurants that were certified kosher.

After graduating from high school, Dr. Dick made a "deal" with G-d. "I told Him that if I got into Boston University's special six-year medical program I would start keeping Shabbat." When Dr. Dick was accepted into the program she made good on her word.

"As I met more and more observant women," recalls Dr. Dick, "I was struck by what I perceived as an inner peace and an outer radiance. The relationships fostered between husband and wife and parents and children were exceptional. I also observed a tremendous appreciation of women by women and an acknowledgment of the special inspiration and energy that can be born from women gathering together to learn, to sing, and to share their common experiences."

In her first years in Boston, Dr. Dick was a regular visitor at the Chabad House serving the B.U. campus, though she did not attend Chabad exclusively. Eventually, though, she found that "Chabad Chasidic philosophy was not 'an extra.' It offered an essential contribution to the understanding of classic Jewish learning and living."

As she proceeded through her medical program, Dr. Dick often contemplated whether she had made the right choice. Would she be able to meet the many demands placed upon her as a doctor, and still have time to be a fully observant Jewish woman? She was constantly posing these questions to friends, teachers and rabbis.

Halfway through the program, Dr. Dick had to decide in which area she would specialize. She wrote to the Rebbe enumerating different possibilities and mentioned that she was leaning toward pediatrics. The Rebbe gave his blessing for pediatrics. She took this as her sign that she was meant to continue on in her training.

After graduating from Boston University with a degree in medicine, Dr. Dick was accepted into a pediatrics residency program at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. There, they agreed to a schedule so that Dina would not have to be on call on Shabbat or Yom Tov. She attributes much of her success in being able to be fully observant in the medical world to being consistent. "When my colleagues and professors saw that I was willing to do anything to guard my principles-like work every single Sunday to avoid working on Shabbat-they accommodated my needs. Those people who wavered, or complained about having to work most Sundays, had problems."

Looking back, Dr. Dick realizes that when she was younger, she wanted to be observant because she "wanted to do the 'real thing.' Observing mitzvot according to Jewish law felt like the correct way to be. As I matured and learned more Torah, especially Chasidic philosophy, my commitment to Torah and mitzvot evolved from being emotionally based to being founded on a deeper intellectual understanding."

Dr. Dick has worked extensively in pediatric oncology and says she has learned life-long lessons from her experiences. "Every moment in life is a gift. A person needs to continually consider, 'What am I doing with this moment.' As a woman, wife, and mother, I ask myself this question all the time."

Working in a private practice in Brooklyn, where she resides with her husband and a year old son, Dr. Dick does a lot of juggling. She feels that the image of a juggler is an apt metaphor for her role. "The role of the Jewish woman is to be a juggler, a master juggler."


What's New

LEAD BY G-D'S HAND

"It is no accident that you have picked up this book. Nothing happens out of mere chance or circumstances," begins this latest release from Sichos in English about Divine Providence. Based on the works of the Rebbe, this slim volume presents several treatises of the Rebbe which clarify the Baal Shem Tov's teachings on this subject. It compares his approach to the explanations which existed previously and shows how we can apply this concept to our lives.

DAYS OF AWE, DAYS OF JOY

This newest release from Kehot Publications draws on a wide selection of the Rebbe's works and those of his predecessors. The result is both an exploration of the month of Tishrei and an introduction to the major themes of Judaism. The collection of pithy pieces includes Chasidic stories and aphorisms, explanations of nuances in the holiday prayers, and the significance of each custom and observance. The book is compiled by master anthologer Rabbi Eli Friedman and translated by Binyomin Kaplan. Get a hold of Days of Awe, Days of Joy now so that you're prepared for the holidays next fall!


The Rebbe Writes

10th of Cheshvan, 5734 [1973]

After not hearing from you for a long time, I was pleased to receive your letter of October 28th with enclosures. Many thanks for the good news about the various activities.

I trust that the accomplishments in the past will stimulate you and all the members of the Neshei Chabad to even greater accomplishments in the future, in accordance with the saying of our Sages, "He who has 100, desires 200; and having attained 200 desires 400." If in material things ambition increases with every success, and at a growing pace, how much more should it be in the case of Torah and Mitzvos. And if this is so in the case of an individual, how much more so should it be in the case of group activity and a concerted effort by many who share the same dedication and inspiration.

Especially as we are now coming from the month of Tishrei, which ushers in the New Year and sets the tone for the entire year.

This is the reason why the month of Tishrei contains "samples" of the whole range of religious experience: Rosh Hashanah-acceptance of G-d's Kingship, Yom Kippur-repentance (Teshuvah), Succos-rejoicing with Mitzvos, culminating with Simchas Torah-rejoicing with the Torah, and also the Torah rejoicing with Jews living by the Torah and Mitzvos.

I trust therefore that these experiences will be with you and every one of the participants in the activities of Neshei Chabad, throughout the year, and will be permeated with the culminating note of Tishrei, namely, true joy in Divine service and in every aspect of the daily life, materially and spiritually.

15th of Cheshvan, 5752 [1991]

Mr. Ardadiusz Rybicki

President of the Council for Polish-Jewish Relations

Office of the President of the Republic of Poland

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter in which you express deep sorrow about the terrible anti-Semitic incident that took place last month in front of the synagogue in Warsaw; that the perpetrators were captured and will be prosecuted, and that the behavior was condemned by President Walesa, etc. You also express the hope that in the future intolerance and prejudice will disappear from the Polish people and that you are working towards this end.

We appreciate the sentiments expressed in your letter, and we pray that your hope and efforts will materialize very soon indeed.

Apropos of the above I would like to add that last month, in the beginning of Tishrei, we ushered in the current Jewish Year, 5752, with the celebration of Rosh Hashana, the anniversary of the creation of the first man, Adam. Our Sages of the Talmud explain why the creation of man differed from the creation of other living species and why, among other things, man was created as a single individual, unlike other living creatures created in pairs. One of the reasons-our Sages declare-is that it was G-d's design that the human race, all humans everywhere and at all times, should know that each and all descend from the one and the same single progenitor, a fully developed human being created in the image of G-d, so that no human being could claim superior ancestral origin; hence would also find it easier to cultivate a real feeling of kinship in all inter human relationships.

Indeed, although Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish festival, our prayers for a Happy New Year include also all the nations and dwellers on earth. And true happiness includes everyone's peace and prosperity both materially and spiritually.

With prayerful wishes,

4th of Cheshvan, 5733 [1972]

I am in receipt of your letter of the 27th of Tishrei. Thank you very much for letting me know the good news about an improvement in the various matters about which you wrote in your letter. This surely strengthens the confidence that also the other matters will be improved and go from good to better.

With regard to the question of being cheerful, etc., surely when you will think deeply on the blessings G-d has bestowed upon you and your husband, especially to have good children, enjoying good health, and so forth-surely this should arouse true joy in your heart.

In connection with your mentioning your forthcoming birthday, may G-d grant that your Mazel should be renewed in the forthcoming year, in addition to the blessing for a good and pleasant year received on Rosh Hashanah.


Rambam this week

28 Tishrei 5759

Positive mitzva 107: (Spiritual) uncleanliness of a corpse

In Lev. 19:14-16 we are commanded concerning the uncleanliness of a dead body. (Termed "the father of all uncleanliness," it conveys spiritual impurity to whatever enters or remains within the same tent or under the same roof with it.)


A Word from the Director

This week is Shabbat Bereishit, when the very first chapter of the Torah is read in the synagogue. "In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth." When you think about it, however, G-d's decision to start the Torah off with these words is surprising. The Torah is not a book of history; its narratives contain huge gaps in chronology, tons of details on some subjects and not even a mention of others. Rather, the Torah is a practical guide for the Jew to apply in his daily life. Why, then, is it so important for us to know that G-d created the world?

As Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator explains, the knowledge that G-d created the world establishes that it is He alone Who sets the rules. G-d is the sole Authority, the only Arbitrator of what is moral and what is not. G-d created the Land of Israel, allowed other nations to live there for a specified time, then willingly took it from them and gave it to the Jewish people. It's G-d's world, so to speak, and He can certainly do with it whatever He wants.

In fact, G-d's creation of the world is the starting point from which all else follows. It is what distinguishes objective, G-d-derived morality from man-made codes of behavior. Because G-d is the Creator, only He can determine what is just. Take killing, for example. In contrast to modern sentiment, the Torah says that under certain circumstances, putting someone to death is the moral thing to do, but suicide and euthanasia are wrong. Why? Because when it boils right down to it, the Torah's laws transcend any human legislation.

As we read in this week's Torah portion, man was created "in G-d's image" - the same G-d Who determines right from wrong. But after all, He did write the definitive book on the subject...


Thoughts that Count

And G-d created the great sea-monsters (Gen. 1:21)

As Rashi notes, these were "the Leviathan (livyatan) and its mate." As explained by Chasidut, the Hebrew word "livyatan" means connection or joining. It refers to the very highest spiritual level, at which a person's attachment to G-d is constant and uninterrupted. Nonetheless, even on this superior level, every individual still needs a "mate," a good friend and supporter to help him in his service of G-d. (Likutei Sichot)

And G-d saw every thing that He had made, and behold, it was very good (Gen. 1:31)

Our Sages commented: "'Good' - refers to the good inclination; 'very good' refers to the evil inclination.' " The phenomenon of teshuva, repentance, could not exist without the creation of an evil inclination. Teshuva enables man to attain an even higher spiritual level and completeness than before he sinned; thus, G-d declared the creation "very good" only after Adam was created with this potential. (Sefer HaSichot 5749, Vol. 1)

By the sweat of your face shall you eat bread (Gen. 3:19)

Rabbi Yosef of Novhorodok used to say: If a person has to work night and day just to fulfill the curse of "By the sweat of your face shall you eat bread," how much more so should he expend time and effort to attain the blessing of "Blessed is the man who trusts in G-d"!

My sin is greater than I can bear (Gen. 4:13)

When a person sins and afterwards does teshuva, sincerely regretting his misdeed and returning to G-d with a whole heart, he refines and purifies the life-force he misused in committing the sin and elevates it to its higher spiritual source. When Cain declared, "My sin is greater than I can bear," he was saying that he felt incapable of elevating his terrible sin and transforming it into holiness. (Tzava'at HaRibash)


It Once Happened

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev and Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk eagerly joined the townsfolk in the mitzva of marrying off the young couple, two orphans who had been brought up by members of the community.

Just as the wedding was about to begin, news spread that kidnappers were looking for young men of draft age. The hapless victims of such ruthless men would be enlisted in the Czar's army for 25 years. Often their bereaved families never saw them again. All the young men fled into hiding, but the bridegroom was so preoccupied with his wedding preparations that he neglected to hide, and so he was the only young man found.

When the terrible news became known, grief replaced the former happy bustle. The bride was inconsolable. Rabbi Menachem Mendel, who had helped arrange the match, came to the young woman and said, "I promise that this very day your groom will be returned to you." The words of the tzadik gave her strength and calmed her. Rabbi Menachem Mendel rushed to the office of the military attach‚, where he found a drunken officer sitting at the desk. He made an impassioned plea for the release of the groom. "You filthy Jew! You could be executed for trying to bribe an officer of the Czar! Why I wouldn't even take 3,000 rubles as a bribe to free the boy. Maybe I wouldn't take 5,000!"

When the tzadik heard those words his heart filled with hope. Obviously, the officer was open to bribes; now he had to figure out a way to raise the astronomical sum. He went to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak who answered, "Even if all the townspeople give everything they own they would not raise this sum."

"Nevertheless," replied Rabbi Menachem Mendel, "We must go to each and every house and see what we can gather, for the boy must be saved."

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak agreed and suggested that they bring their colleague, Rabbi Shneur Zalman with them to help persuade the people.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman agreed, but on two conditions: they must make a list of potential donors, and only he had the final say of how much each person should contribute. They agreed to the conditions and wrote out a list. When it was finished, Rabbi Shneur Zalman added an improbable name to the top of the page, that of the infamous Votezh (formerly Velvel), a fabulously wealthy Jew who was notorious for his lack of charity. Not only did Rabbi Shneur Zalman add his name to the top of the list, but he insisted that they visit him first.

When they were admitted to Votezh's mansion, Rabbi Shneur Zalman explained the tragic plight of the young couple and begged him to participate in this great mitzva.

"I will join in ransoming the young man," said Votezh. He opened his safe ceremoniously and withdrew a copper penny, green with age. Rabbi Shneur Zalman took it and solemnly thanked the miser, adding, "May G-d grant you many more opportunities to perform mitzvot." The three tzadikim headed to the door, but Rabbi Shneur Zalman's companions were aghast at such impudence.

Then a voice rang out saying, "Please don't leave yet." They turned to see Votezh withdrawing two heaping handfuls of coppers from his safe and offering it to Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Again he thanked the miser profusely, heaping blessings on him for his good deed. The scenario repeated itself ten more times, and each time Votezh increased his donation substantially, until he had given the three rabbis the entire enormous sum of 5,000 rubles.

Money in hand, Rabbi Menachem Mendel ran to the military attach‚, who gladly accepted the bribe, ordering his servant, "Bring the crippled Jew out. How dare they pass off a cripple as a proper military recruit!"

Together, the rabbis and the groom proceeded to the waiting wedding celebration. As they walked a carriage flew past. They caught a glimpse of the drunken officer just before the racing carriage plunged over a bridge into the black, raging waters below. They tried to rescue the officer, but the carriage, horses, and driver had sunk into the rushing water. As they walked in the darkness, the bridegroom's foot hit a hard object. It was a metal strongbox, which contained not only the 5,000 rubles, but other valuable objects as well.

The three rabbis and the shocked bridegroom hurried back to town where the wedding took place with great rejoicing. Later that evening, Rabbi Shneur Zalman explained, "I knew that we couldn't hope to raise so much money from the townspeople, and yet, since Rabbi Menachem Mendel had sworn the groom would return, it had to happen. Velvel-Votezk was our only hope. I knew that once he had offered a copper penny to a beggar who threw it back in his face in disgust. Velvel was insulted, but not only for his personal honor. Even more painful to him was that his new god, money, had been put to shame. He resolved never to give more than a penny to anyone who would ask, and each time he offered the same pathetic copper penny. Of course, his offering was always greeted with the same disdain, and his anger continued to mount. For some 20 years that same penny lay in Velvel's safe until I accepted it from him.

"It is written, 'Make for Me an opening as wide as the eye of a needle and I will increase it to admit the largest wagons.' Once the tiny breach had been made in Velvel's heart, G-d was able to make it big enough for him to provide the entire ransom himself."


Moshiach Matters

Pondering that Moshiach and the Redemption are fundamental doctrines of the Divine Torah, studying and understanding the meaning of the laws and concepts of Moshiach, Redemption, the Messianic era and all that is related to these, must of itself evoke the appropriate appreciation and longing for these. (Mashiach by Rabbi J.I. Schochet)


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