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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   539: Bereshit

540: Noach

541: Lech-Lecha

542: Vayera

543: Chayei Sarah

544: Toldot

545: Vayetzei

546: Vayishlach

547: Vayeshev

548: Miketz

549: Vayigash

550: Vayechi

Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

Bamidbar Numbers

Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
October 30, 1998 - 10 Cheshvan, 5759

541: Lech-Lecha

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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.


  540: Noach542: Vayera  

Autumn Leaves - On the Road to Redemption  |  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

Autumn Leaves - On the Road to Redemption

by Dr. Aryeh A. Gotfryd

During an autumn stroll, a mother and her daughter were admiring the beautiful array of colorful leaves.

"Mom, why do leaves change color?"

"Well, dear, every leaf has millions of green molecules called chlorophyll. All summer long, chlorophyll makes food for the tree. In the fall, when the days get shorter and cooler, the tree stops making food. The chlorophyll breaks down and with it goes the green color. By that time other molecules in the leaf become more obvious and give off the colors that we see today."

"That's not what Grandma says," commented the little girl. "She says G-d paints them-one at a time."

Whom should the child believe? Mom? Grandma? Both? Neither?

Those who side with Grandma are to be admired for their piety. Those who side with Mom are to be admired for their sophistication. Still there may be more to Grandma then meets the eye. Afterall, rejecting religion out of ignorance is no better than rejecting science out of ignorance.

Some would reject the religious view in the leaf color debate because it presents G-d as holding a paintbrush, tins of paint and a stopwatch to make sure all those leaves get done on time.

But what if G-d is an Absolutely Infinite Being using the brush of seasonal cell function dipped into pigments such as chlorophyll and carotene. Surely if the Creator is capable of making everything from nothing, She/He/It can also regulate existing chemicals and processes.

Neither science nor religion are as rigid as many people think. Science has room for the Creator and religion has room for science.

Individual scientists or theologians, or even whole sects of them, may be too biased or uninformed to recognize this, but authentic science and authentic religion are quite compatible and even complementary.

Science is essentially concerned with how the world works and reli-gion deals with why it works that way.

If you're out to describe nature, science will give you what you need: Hard data, descriptive models, and mechanisms. But all the scientific investigations in the world cannot go beyond description to determine the explanation for anything at all.

So what makes nature tick? Think about it. We try to explain leaf coloring with physiology and physiology with biochemistry and biochemistry with physics. But at the end of the day we have no explanation for any aspect of the picture. We could learn something from the approach of Descartes, the celebrated math and physics whiz who saw natural law as a consequence of G-d's permanence. Descartes derived his notions of inertia and the conservation of momentum from his belief that:

"The first and primary cause of motion is G-d, who acts not only at the creation to impart motion to matter at the first instant, but who continues to act at each instant by imparting motion to particles, and who creates the universe anew at each instant."

This sounds more like Chasidic thought than science. But Descartes was far from alone. In fact, one of the hottest topics in quantum physics today is Continuous Creation from above nature, which is even espoused by confirmed atheists. Even further, John Wheeler, one of the world's premiere physicist, says that quantum theory implies that man's recognition of order in nature was foreseen, plan-ned and intentionally sought before the first particle came into existence.

So why do the leaves change color? G-d only knows. Still, when we see the precisely orchestrated emergence of autumn colors and consider all the biological and ecological processes that underlie this spectacular, our exhiliration is further enhanced by the knowledge that Chasidut and science can agree that the beauty in the eye of the beholder is meaningful in the mind of G-d.

Dr. Gotfryd lectures on Faith and Science at the University of Toronto


Living with the Rebbe

There is a saying of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, quoted in the name of his father, the Rebbe Rashab:

"The first Torah portion, Bereishit, is a joyful Torah portion, for in it, G-d created the world and all of its inhabitants.

"Noach, however, relates the Great Flood. The week in which it is read is therefore a sad one, but it ends on a happy note with the birth of our forefather Abraham.

"Yet the week which is truly the happiest is the one in which the Torah portion of Lech Lecha is read. For each and every day of the week we live with Abraham."

Why is Lech Lecha, this week's Torah reading, considered the most joyful of the three?

Bereishit contains the narrative of Creation. This portion relates G-d's actions, and describes how He created the world in six days. The portion tells us what G-d did, but it does not relate the deeds of the creations themselves.

Noach, by contrast, deals primarily with the actions of mankind. In this Torah portion we learn about the Great Flood, about the behavior of the people of Noach's generation, and about the deeds of the righteous Noach himself.

Thus each of the first two Torah portions concerns itself with an entirely different sphere. Bereishit revolves around G-d and G-dly matters, whereas Noach concentrates on the more mundane affairs of mankind. In neither of these Torah portions is the connection between G-d and man, the higher spheres and the lower spheres, expressed.

How do Jews create that connection? By carrying out the will of G-d and performing His mitvzot.

When Jews observe the Torah's commandments they draw nearer to G-d, binding themselves to Him with an everlasting bond. When G-d gave His holy Torah to the Jewish people, He thereby gave them the means to forge a connection between the "higher worlds" - G-d - and the "lower worlds" - human beings.

The preparation for the giving of the Torah began with Lech Lecha, when G-d gave Abraham the commandment to "go out" of his native land, and Abraham obeyed. Ignoring his own personal wishes and his natural proclivities and inclinations, Abraham set off to fulfill the will of G-d to establish a "dwelling place" for Him in the physical world.

Thus began the wondrous connection with G-d that continues and is strengthened with every mitzva we perform.

This is why Lech Lecha is the most joyful of the Torah's first three portions. The first speaks solely of the higher worlds; the second, only about the lower. It isn't until the third portion, Lech Lecha, that the true connection to G-d first commences.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 15


A Slice of Life

TEFILIN, MEMORY AND ME

Steve putting on tefilin with his son

by Steve Batkin

Europe is not a good place to have a car accident. But it does happen.

My wife, Annette and I were driving through Switzerland to get to France. Annette had a "premonition" that made her anxious about Switzerland but we took that route anyway. Annette drove.

At one point while we were driving, we entered a 5-way intersection. The way was clear so we proceeded. And then I saw a car heading directly for me from the side. I actually made eye contact with the driver, who continued towards me until he slammed into us.

Since we were hit on the side, we were thrown sideways. Annette's feet were bruised and I slammed my head on the door pillar. The police were there in about 45 seconds, directing traffic, towing our car to the side and making sure we were alright.

It seems that the Swiss want drivers to admit guilt or innocence at the accident scene. The one officer who spoke English told me that the accident was our fault because there was a white line on the pavement which indicated we were to stop. If we didn't admit on the spot that it was our fault we would have to go before a judge. Based on a police report which would state that we were at fault, the judge would find us guilty, so we might as well admit our guilt here and now, the officer "counseled" us. As we didn't feel we had much of a choice, we said we were guilty so we could go on our way.

The police drove us to the car repair shop, got ice for our bruises and waited until the garage could locate a replacement car. When they told us that the new car would have to come from Geneve (we were in Lusane), we realized we had some time on our hands. The police then volunteered to take us to the downtown area so we could continue our touring. We returned later by taxi, picked up our replacement car and were on our way. All of this took a mere 3 hours. Now that's efficient!

Upon our return to Connecticut, I realized that my sense of direction was gone. I could no longer find my way home from the bagel shop or the grocery store. If I went out on my own, I had to use my car phone and get directions. It often took 20 minutes to travel 2 miles because I went 15 miles out of the way trying to get there. A CAT scan and exam revealed no permanent damage, but my doctor said it was probably a concussion and my sense of direction would probably come back. Someday.

A few months later, we were asked to host Rabbi Laibl Wolf of Australia who would be a guest lecturer at the Chabad Center in Greenwich. I got lost taking him to his lecture, but eventually we got there. The next morning, we went for a walk at the PepsiCo headquarters. After a brisk hour walk, I realized that I could not find my car. I was utterly lost again. Rabbi Wolf led me, totally embarrassed, back to the car.

At home, Rabbi Wolf said he thought he could help with my memory problem. I was intrigued. How? Rabbi Wolf then began to explain to me, based on a talk of the Rebbe, that putting on tefilin would help.

My immediate reaction was that I had been fooled by Rabbi Wolf's entire presentation the previous evening. After having listened to his lecture, I had thought he was an enlightened educator, "despite" the fact that he was an Orthodox Jew. And here he was, telling me in essence, "Don't think about it. Don't understand it. Don't ask questions. Just do the mitzva."

Well, he was a guest. And as I'd always been taught to treat guests politely, I agreed to put on tefilin. It was as simple as 1, 2, 3. Just put it on, say the Shema and the subseqent v'ahavta paragraph, and take it off. That's all. Three minutes later he left and I went to work.

But my brain still felt like mush and I got lost again. Maybe it takes time to help, I consoled myself hopefully. The next morning I put on tefilin again, 1, 2, 3. I could barely find my way to work. After work I got totally lost again and could barely get back home.

This can't be what the Rebbe meant, I told myself. I decided to try and do some research. I looked in the Talmud. In the section called Brachot it says that saying the Shema properly includes saying the three paragraphs immediate following the Shema as well. Why? Because there are 248 words in the Shema and the subsequent 3 paragraphs and these 248 words correspond to the body's 248 limbs and organs. To make sure that all of one's limbs and organs stay healthy one needs to recite all 248 words.

I decided that the next day I would add the 2 paragraphs I hadn't been saying. Now, this may sound hokey, but my memory came right back! I haven't gotten lost since then, and what's more, I can even visualize directions in my head, which I was never able to do very well before.

Though I haven't been able to find out for sure, I figure that the word from those 248 words that keeps your brain healthy must be in the 2nd or 3rd paragraph after Shema. So everyday, before I exercise, I put on tefilin and say those 248 words. I don't know why, but it works.

Steve Batkin, an insurance salesman and engineer, lives in Greenwich, Connecticut with his wife and children.


What's New

HEAVENLY LIGHT

Chabad of Georgia is hosting the 37th annual Lubavitch Women's Organization Mid-Winter Convention from Friday, Nov. 20 - Sunday, Nov. 22. The theme of the convention is "Heavenly Light with an Earthly Purpose" in celebration of the Baal Shem Tov's 300th birthday. It will include workshops, lectures, musical entertainment at the Saturday evening program and a grand banquet at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. The convention is open to all Jewish women. For more info contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or call (404) 843-2464.

CHILDREN'S TORAH SCROLL

A scribe in Jerusalem is writing a Torah Scroll for Jewish boys and girls under the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva. You can "buy" one of the Torah's 304, 805 letters for a Jewish child and he or she will receive a personalized certificate from Israel. Send U.S. $1 or its equivalent in any currency, together with the child's Jewish name, mother's Jewish name, family name, address and age to: Children's Sefer Torah, P.O.B. 8, Kfar Chabad, Israel, 72915


The Rebbe Writes

15th of Iyar, 5724 [1964]

I received your letter of the 7th of Iyar, and thank you very much for the good news about the various activities. May G-d grant that the activities should be continued in a growing measure, and with joy and gladness of heart in particular as we spoke a number of times, when you were here. I trust that not only do you remember this, but that you are constantly endeavoring to materialize this in the daily life.

With regard to fasting, about which I told you once that it is not advisable to take upon oneself extra fasts in addition to those which are already in the calendar, this is based on the words of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism]. One of the reasons which he mentions in this connection is that the generations have weakened, and are no longer fit to have extra fasts. Obviously, my suggestion to you, therefore, is valid even now. The would-be resolution to undertake a fast should be changed to a resolution to serve G-d with an extra measure of joy, and to endeavor to spread good influence in the environment in this direction.

As requested, I will remember those mentioned in your letter in prayer, and may G-d grant that you should have good news to report.

With blessing,

P.S. With regard to the concluding lines in your letter, in which you write that you feel badly because you do not know anything in Yiddishkeit, this attitude and feeling, is of course, quite unwarranted. Moreover, you should remember that it is one of the tactics of the yetzer hora [evil inclination] to plant discouragement in one's mind. In your case, there is no basis for it, inasmuch as G-d had helped you to study a certain period of time in the Lubavitch Yeshiva, and there is no doubt that you succeeded in absorbing a great deal of Yiddishkeit.

17th of Iyar, 5719 [1959]

I received your letter of Friday, the 7th of Iyar, in which you ask my advice how to deal with Mr.-

Generally speaking, it would be advisable to discuss the matter with the doctor, and perhaps it is possible to find a doctor that had occasion to examine him. I also wrote a letter to -, which he may have shown to you. It would be well to find an opportunity, of course without him knowing that I suggested it to you, to emphasize to him again that the normal way for a person to make progress is to advance step by step, rather than expect of himself radical changes all at once. Even if the progress seems slow, this is the way of progress in his circumstance. Besides, there are different times during the year which are appropriate for different purposes: there are times for joy, and times for serious reflection, and remorse, and teshuvah [repentance]. Therefore he should, at this time, postpone any effort at repentance, which does not mean that he has to completely abandon the idea, but only to postpone it until the appropriate time for teshuvah. But in the meantime he should try to make progress in the learning and observance of the Torah, step by step, with complete peace of mind.

Another important point for him to remember is never to entertain any thought of despair that any sin could not be corrected or forgiven. For G-d is the Essence of goodness and of mercy and never rejects teshuvah, which is carried out at the proper time and in the proper way. He should therefore have absolute faith in G-d, and the stronger his faith will be, the sooner he will find peace of mind.

Above all, as already mentioned, all thought and discussions about repentance, etc. should be postponed for the proper time, and it is best to avoid such topics and discussions altogether, and whenever anything like that comes up, it should be discussed in a way that would not excite or upset his nerves. May G-d bless you with success.


Rambam this week

13 Marcheshvan 5759

Positive mitzva 104: The zav

By this injunction (Lev. 14:34-54 and 15:1-12) we are commanded concerning the spiritual uncleanliness of a zav (a man suffering from a certain kind of discharge). It includes all the regulations relating to his symptoms and the manner in which he renders others unclean.


A Word from the Director

This Shabbat is the yartzeit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman Aaron Schneerson (known by his initials as the Raza), the eldest son of the Rebbe Maharash and the beloved uncle of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, who once described him in the following words:

"My uncle the Raza had the finest inborn character traits, as well as an unusual inner strength of heart. Even when he suffered (and he suffered greatly), there was always a smile on his face... Not once in his life did he ever shed a tear. But that was only when it came to his own suffering; someone else's distress always touched him deeply. His smile would vanish, his face became sad, and tears would fill his eyes. He would do anything to try to help the other person..."

The Raza was also blessed with an extraordinary talent for story-telling, so important in Chasidic circles. "Every word was illuminating, every sentence a living, animated component of the most wonderful painting..."

His father once gave him an unusual compliment. "He has a strong head," the Rebbe Maharash once said about his son at a Chasidic gathering. "He is able to think two thoughts at the same time."

It happened once that a baby boy at whose brit the Raza had been sandek became ill. When the baby's father asked him for a blessing for his son, the Raza stood up, faced the window and began to sing the famous nigun of the Alter Rebbe. When he finished singing he turned to the father and reassured him. "Go in peace," he said. "The baby will live."

The Raza was only 51 when he passed away. Before he died he personally set fire to all his writings (representing decades of scholarly work!), put their ashes in a little bag and instructed his relatives to bury it with him. Nonetheless, a few handwritten Chasidic discourses survived that were in the possession of the Previous Rebbe.

May he be a good advocate before the Throne of Glory on behalf of the entire Jewish people.


Thoughts that Count

Go out of your country...to the land that I will show you-areka (Gen. 12:1)

Surprisingly, the Torah does not explicitly tell us that G-d showed Abraham the Land of Israel, prompting another explanation based on Hebrew grammar: In this instance, the letter kaf in the word "areka" does not refer to the Land, but to Abraham. In other words, G-d was telling Abraham that He would show Himself and reveal His true nature to the world through Abraham's service. (HaDrash VeHa'iyun)

And Abram said to the king of Sodom...I will not take from a thread to a thong (Gen. 14:22-23)

In the merit of this declaration, Abraham's descendants were given two mitzvot: the blue thread of the tzitzit (ritual fringes on a four-cornered garment), and the leather straps of the tefilin.

And afterwards they will go out with great wealth (Gen. 15:14)

There are many things we do to commemorate our exile in Egypt. Matza, "the bread of affliction," and maror (bitter herbs) recall our slavery, whereas the charoset symbolizes the mortar that our forefathers used in brick-laying. We don't, however, commemorate the "great wealth" with which the Jewish people left Egypt, because unlike the above, no trace of it remains...

And your name shall be Abraham (Gen. 17:5)

It states in the Talmud: "Anyone who calls Abraham [by his former name] Abram transgresses a positive commandment, as the Torah explicitly states, 'And your name shall be Abraham.' " Yet there is no similar prohibition against referring to our forefather Jacob as Jacob, even though he was later given another name, Israel. One explanation offered by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson is that the name Abram was given to Abraham by his non-Jewish father, Terach, and it is forbidden to change one's Jewish name and assume one given by a gentile. Jacob, by contrast, was given his name by a Jew, our Patriarch Isaac. (Toldot Levi Yitzchak)


It Once Happened

There once lived in Damascus a Moslem fakir, a person who claimed to be able to perform magical feats. He was very vain and loved to spread stories of his supposed miracles, such as being able to fly to Mecca and back on the Sabbath day. He loved above everything else to be accorded respect and honor by the simple people.

One day when this fakir was enjoying a stroll through the city, he encountered a group of Jewish children playing happily. When he passed by, they simply continued their games, not even noticing his presence. This pompous fakir, however, was very insulted. Why had they not stopped their games to greet him with a respectful bow? he stormed. Many people tried to speak with him and defuse his anger, but he refused to be placated. He immediately ran to the governor of the city complaining that the Jewish children had showed disrespect for him and by extension, for the Moslem faith.

The governor, who was no friend of the Jews, ordered the children arrested and imprisoned for this "crime." As soon as word reached the ears of the horrified parents, they went to their leader, Rabbi Chaim Parchi, a member of a great and influential family, known throughout the land for their Torah learning as well as their intelligence and acumen in secular matters. Surely Rabbi Chaim could figure out a way to save the innocent children.

It didn't take long for Rabbi Chaim to devise a clever plan to secure the children's release. Rabbi Chaim had a large collection of precious gems and other valuable jewelry. One of the items was a magnificent necklace composed of ninety-nine perfectly matched gems. He was aware of the fact that Moslems use strings of ninety-nine beads in their prayers in order to keep track of the verses. This knowledge, he hoped, would be the salvation of the children.

That very day Rabbi Chaim took the precious necklace and removed one of the stones. Then he proceeded to the palace of the governor where he knew the fakir was enjoying an audience. Rabbi Chaim announced that he had a unique gift to present to His Excellency, and he was received at once. When the governor set eyes on the fabulous piece, he was overjoyed. He held the string of gems up to the light and everyone remarked on the brilliance of the gems and admired how they refracted the sunlight in multicolored patterns on the palace walls. The governor was transported by thoughts of how he would bring the string of gems to the mosque with him and how everyone would admire and covet his unique prayer beads.

Then he suddenly stopped in mid-thought. No, this could not be; there were only ninety-eight beads in the string! He couldn't bring it to the mosque, where he would be the envy of everyone he knew. The string of beautiful precious gems was totally worthless without the missing ninety-ninth bead!

"Rabbi Chaim," the governor began in an oily voice, "perhaps you have one more stone to match these beautiful gems?"

"No, I'm afraid not, your Excellency. You see, these are very rare. There is not one more such stone in all of Damascus. I do know, however, that there is one in existence, but it is in Mecca. Ah, but here is a thought: Perhaps the fakir would be so kind, on his weekly pilgrimage to Mecca, to fetch the gem and bring it here it you!"

"Oh, what a wonderful idea! Of course, you would do this small favor for me," purred the governor, once again filled with thoughts of flashing the gems before the envious eyes of his fellow worshipers.

The fakir smiled and nodded, but his heart shrank inside him. He was now caught in a trap. He hadn't been in Mecca in many years, but if his lies were exposed, he would die of shame. Not knowing what to do, he sought Rabbi Chaim's advice.

"You must influence the governor to free the children," Rabbi Chaim said. "Then I will give you the missing gem. Do it without fail, or your name will be a laughingstock in all the streets of the city! If you do as I say, your secret will never be revealed."

Of course, it was done, and the happy children were returned unharmed to their waiting parents.


Moshiach Matters

The patriarchs exclaimed before Him: "Master of the universe, maybe there is no restoration for the children?" He said to them: "When there is a generation that looks forward to My Kingdom they will be redeemed immediately," as it is said (Jeremiah 31:16): "'There is hope for your future,' says G-d, 'that your children shall return to their own boundary.' " (Eicha Zuta 26)


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