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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
November 27, 1998 - 8 Kislev, 5759

545: Vayetzei

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  544: Toldot546: Vayishlach  

Thanks  |  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

Thanks

Take a walk down memory lane. Wasn't it great to be a kid? So few worries, hardly any hassles, almost stress-free living.

But do you remember when, as a child or adolescent, you did something you weren't supposed to do and you got punished or "grounded"?

"I know you can't appreciate it now, but some day you will thank me for this," your father told you as he took away the keys and said the car was off-limits for a week.

Or maybe it was Mom, who told you that you couldn't have phone privileges for the next two days.

"But I promised so-and-so that I would call her to study for the big biology test tomorrow," you remonstrated.

"No exceptions!" your mother said, unmoved by your whining. "Some day, when you're a parent, maybe even before then, you'll understand and you might even thank me," your mother added, echoing words that have been passed down from generation to generation.

"That's ridiculous" you think to yourself. "I'm going to thank you because you were angry with me?" (Of course, you only think this thought to yourself; but you wouldn't care say it out loud. Because we're reminiscing here about the "olden days" when children didn't talk back to their parents.)

"I will thank you, G-d, for You were angry with me," the prophet Isaiah foresees we will say in the times of Moshiach. All of the suffering, all of the evil, all of the anguish we have individually and collectively experienced throughout our 2,000 years of exile will be understood at that time. We will be able to appreciate that not only was it for our own good, but that it was actually innately good!

Of course, we don't-nay we can't-have such insight now. And it is not just a matter of us being like children or adolescents who will understand or appreciate it when we become more "mature." For, if we could truly comprehend and recognize the suffering as ultimately for our good, we wouldn't pray, and yearn, and act to bring about the end of the suffering and the long-awaited Redemption. Only in the time of Moshiach will we see the goodness concealed in the pain itself, like the pain of labor which is transformed into a source of joy upon the birth of a child.

There are, and always have been, those few, unique individuals who have the vision to thank G-d even now for his anger. And example would be the Talmudic Sage Rabbi Akiva. Together with his colleagues near the site of the destroyed Holy Temple, they saw a fox emerging from the now desolate Holy of Holies. While the other great Sages wept, Rabbi Akiva laughed.

"Akiva," they asked in wonder and surprise, "how can you laugh at this mournful sight?"

Rabbi Akiva responded, "Just as the prophecy of Micha that 'Zion shall be plowed like a field" has been realized, the prophecy of Zecharya will also be fulfilled: "Old men and old women shall yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem,'" he explained to them.

Rabbi Akiva's colleagues told him, "Akiva, you have comforted us."

Jewish teachings instruct us to develop the ability to thank G-d for the bad just as we thank Him for the good. For, ultimately, even the pain and suffering is good. Do we understand how or why? No. But we will when Moshiach comes, may it happen imminently.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read how Jacob left the home of his righteous father Isaac, left his studies in the yeshiva of Shem and Eber, and went to the home of the evil Laban in Charan. There he began a new chapter in his life, working as a shepherd day and night. Until then Jacob had concentrated on spiritual service, devoting himself solely to the study of Torah. In Charan, however, Jacob's focal point shifted, and he now found himself involved in more mundane tasks.

Surprisingly, it was precisely in Charan that Jacob achieved his highest level of success, as we are told, "And the man increased exceedingly." Jacob became very wealthy, both literally and figuratively. Moreover, it was there that Jacob married and established the Twelve Tribes, the foundation upon which the entire Jewish people would later be built.

But how is it possible that Jacob experienced his greatest success in a place as lowly as Charan? Why was it necessary for the Jewish people to establish its beginnings in such a sordid environment? (Charan is related to the Hebrew word for anger or wrath.)

A similar question can be asked about G-d's desire for a "dwelling place" in the physical world. Of all the higher celestial planes, G-d chose our lowly material world as the place where He wanted to dwell, to establish a permanent "residence."

The mitzvot of the holy Torah are practical commandments that we perform with simple, physical objects. Tefilin are made from the hide of an animal; tzitzit are made from wool; a suka, from planks of wood. G-d wants us to build for Him a "dwelling place down below" by using material objects in the performance of mitzvot. The life-long service of the Jew consists of utilizing whatever he comes in contact with to erect a permanent "residence" for G-d in the lower realms.

This desire for a "dwelling place down below" will be realized completely when Moshiach comes and ushers in the Final Redemption. At that time the purpose of creation will be fulfilled, "for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the L-rd, as the waters cover the sea."

This Divine plan for creation is reflected in Jacob's establishment of the Jewish people in as abject a location as Charan, precisely against a backdrop of involvement in material affairs:

In Charan, Jacob first began to fulfill G-d's intent in the creation of the world, the establishment of a "dwelling place" in this lowest of all possible worlds. In Laban's house he succeeded in laying the groundwork for the generations of Jews who would follow, foreshadowing their Divine mission to transform the physical world into an appropriate "residence" for G-d.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 30


A Slice of Life

A Dream Come True

As Dr. Aryeh Gotfryd of Toronto was deepening his commitment to Judaism, his career as an environmental scientist was starting to open up, with accelerated progress in his doctoral thesis and a steady stream of environmental assessment contracts.

Yet, Aryeh was dissatisfied. Wading through ecological journals for insights into the world of nature seemed hopelessly futile.

Before marrying, Aryeh went to the Rebbe for the first time. He wrote the customary note prior to his audience with the Rebbe, and asked the Rebbe to help him find the service of G-d within applied ecology, not just that his academic pursuits be a means to earn a livelihood.

The Rebbe, holding the note, looked up to its author with a fixed penetrating gaze that gave Aryeh the distinct and intense impression that he was being "known." In what couldn't have been more than three seconds, it felt like his entire past, present and future were laid out before the Rebbe.

A few weeks later, Aryeh had a dream. Aryeh, and his wife, Leah, were sitting with the Rebbe. The Rebbe showed them a magazine entitled "Science, Vol. 64, No. 4 (No. 1)." It was identical to the prestigious journal by that name, published by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science. The Rebbe opened it up for them.

On the first page was a blue sky with white, fluffy clouds. Aryeh started to read about wildlife, vegetation, humanity and the meaning of life in the presence of G-d. The Rebbe turned the page and the next page. Then the Rebbe said, "Let me know when you get to page 7," and Aryeh woke up.

The next reasonable step was to seek out Science, Vol. 64, No. 4 (No. 1) and especially page 7. Aryeh looked in various libraries at the University of Toronto, but none carried such old issues. Forget it, he told himself, it was only a dream.

More than a year later, the possibility that there may have been something to the dream was still nudging him. He went to UT's central reference library. Sure enough, ancient issues of Science were in the Science and Medicine Library.

Aryeh found Vol. 64, No. 4, from 1926. He turned to the article on page 7, which was entitled, "Science for Humanity's Sake" by William Blum. Blum explains that because the study and application of science is spiritually uplifting, science and religion interface in man. Nonetheless, each discipline has its own domain, with science describing how G-d works without being able to address why.

In Vol. 64, issue no. 1 of Science, on page 7, one finds, of all things, a poem! "Come wander with me-In regions yet untrod, And read what is still unread-In the manuscript of G-d."

Aryeh recalled his request of the Rebbe and he remembered his beautiful dream. And now he had in hand two buried treasures precisely related to the encounter with the Rebbe and to his dream.

But, perhaps in the 1920s it was popular for scientists to refer to G-d. Aryeh checked, page by page, all of Volume 64 and many other volumes in the 1920s and 30s. No spiritual references at all.

The correlation between dream and reality was just too improbable to be meaningless. So Aryeh wrote a letter to the Rebbe about his discoveries.

Aryeh did not receive an answer to this letter or eight subsequent letters about the dream. Yet, on every other matter, whether a family celebration or a major turning point, the Rebbe was always quick to respond. Meanwhile, Aryeh became involved in researching and writing about the relationship between religion and science.

In the fall of 1987, Aryeh had a second dream. The Rebbe was in bed, horribly ill and emaciated. He called to Aryeh to get him a glass of water. "Hot or cold?" asked Aryeh. "Cold," the Rebbe answered. Aryeh ran to get some cold water and just as he was handing it to the Rebbe, he woke up.

In shul that morning, Aryeh asked if there was anyone who could interpret dreams. He was directed to the Rav of the Lubavitch Community in Toronto, Rabbi Dovid Schochet. The Rav agreed to convene the Hatavat Chalom Service and Aryeh related his dream. The Rav explained:

"...In general we are used to thinking how we need the Rebbe, so we are not so attuned to how the Rebbe needs us. You have merited to see not only that you are needed but also how you are needed. Water symbolizes Torah. Water however may be hot or cold. Hot signifies emotions and cold signifies intellect. The Rebbe is telling you that he needs your intellectual service in Torah and mitzvot."

Immensely relieved and with a newfound spring in his step, Aryeh thanked the Rav and began to leave. On his way out, someone handed him a book, saying: "The book that you ordered, Emuna U'Mada [Faith and Science], took over a year to arrive. Here it is, it just turned up today."

Aryeh did a double take. The cover was blue, a blue sky with white, fluffy clouds. Exactly the image from his first dream. Aryeh carefully leafed through the first few pages. It was a collection of letters from the Rebbe on a wide range of topics. Aryeh slowly rushed his way to page 7.

Among the hundreds of words on page 7 are precisely two in bold type, tiyur and biyur-"description" and "explanation." There the Rebbe writes that science can only describe how the world works but in no way can it explain why it works that way. The point the Rebbe was making was exactly the point raised by Blum on page 7 of Science, Vol. 64, No. 4! Aryeh stood dumbfounded. How strangely "coincidental."

Aryeh wanted to let the Rebbe know that he had finally reached page 7. Off he went to Crown Heights. Knowing that he would be one of thousands of people passing by the Rebbe that Sunday, to receive his blessing and a dollar to give to charity, Aryeh prudently distilled his message down to two words which he blurted out as he stood before the Rebbe. "Biyur V'Tiyur!" It must have sounded strange to the people standing around. But it didn't sound strange to the Rebbe, because immediately the Rebbe responded with a single, loud, emphatic and resounding "Amen!"

Condensed from Beis Moshiach Magazine


What's New

YESHIVACATION

Take a trip to the warm reaches of your Jewish soul at this year's winter YeshivaCation from Dec. 24-Jan. 3, in Brooklyn, NY. Classes, lectures, and hands-on workshops will give the beginner to the advanced learner new insights into their Jewish roots. For the men's YeshivaCation contact Hadar HaTorah at 718-735-0250 (Hadarh@ix.netcom.com). For the women's YeshivaCation contact Machon Chana at 718-735-0030 (machonc@aol.com)

CELEBRITY AUCTION

A dinner and celebrity Auction benefitting child victim's of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was held recently in New York. To date, 1,641 children have been airlifted to Israel by Chabad's Children of Chernobyl and are being treated at a special facility in the city of Kfar Chabad.


The Rebbe Writes

19th of Cheshvan, 5735 [1974]

Your letter reached me with some delay. In it you write about your problem in regard to the relationship with your wife, after being married for 14 years and having been blessed with children. You also indicate that the problem is connected with the observance of the Jewish way of life.

In the latter aspect lies also the answer to your questions. It is the Jewish way of life, in accordance with the Torah, that having been married for a number of years, and having been blessed with children who are to be brought up to a life of Torah, Chuppah [marriage] and Good Deeds, it is imperative to do everything possible to preserve the peace and harmony of the family to the fullest measure.

At the same time it is also clear that, inasmuch as the Torah is the Jew's very life, there can be no sacrificing of it even in the hope of preserving the family, for, on the contrary, a peaceful and harmonious Jewish family life is possible only if it is based on the observance of the Torah and Mitzvoth, as is also written in reference to the Torah that "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace."

Needless to say, while it is necessary to insist upon the Jewish way of life, this should be explained to the wife in a pleasant way, taking into account her feelings, and not giving the impression that there is any desire to "boss" her around and to show who is the master of the house; but that this is really for the benefit of both the parents and the children and, what is no less important, also for the benefit of the whole Jewish people, since the family unit is the very basis of our Jewish people as a whole.

It is a matter of common experience, due to human nature, that when two persons are personally involved in a disagreement, it is hard for them to discuss their differences dispassionately, and one or the other or both, might get involved in a heated debate, when things are said which would otherwise not have been said. Therefore, it is customary in such a situation that the matter is brought before an orthodox Rabbi, who has the experience, as well as being bound to treat such matters in confidence. Thus, the matter can be discussed fully in the presence of the Rabbi, and straightened out in accordance with his guidance.

I would like to add one important point, that a Jew who accepts the Jewish way of life in his daily life, even though it was not spontaneous, but came about through the influence or even persuasion by another-sooner or later this Jew will come to realize the truth, namely that it was for his real benefit, and whatever his original reaction might have been whether he was reluctant or resentful, in the end he will certainly be most grateful for that kind of influence which has set him on the path of truth and real happiness.

You do not mention anything about the Jewish education of your children, but I trust that in light of the above, and in accordance with the traditional blessing, you are bringing them up to a life of Torah, Chuppah and Good Deeds.

Hoping to hear good news from you in all the above,

P.S. You mention in your letter that you would like to speak to me personally, but this is not at all necessary inasmuch as my reply to you would be the same as outlined above. Moreover, it would not even be very practical to see me, necessarily briefly, for this is a case where both parties have to have an opportunity to unburden themselves fully in the presence of a third objective person, preferably an orthodox Rabbi as indicated above, which may require more than one session.

I would suggest that you should have your Tefillin, as well as the Mezuzoth of your home, checked to make sure they are Kosher, and to be meticulous in observing the Mitzvo of putting on the Tefillin every weekday morning.


Rambam this week

12 Kislev 5759

Positive mitzva 241: The law of damage by fire

By this injunction we are commanded concerning the law of damage caused by fire. It is derived from the Torah verse (Ex. 22:5): "If fire breaks out, and catches in thorns, etc." [We are responsible for damage insofar as it is in our power to prevent injury.]


A Word from the Director

The 9th of Kislev (which this year falls out on Shabbat) is the birthday and yartzeit of the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch. Although he was only 54 years old at the time of his passing, it is considered auspicious when a righteous person passes away on his (Hebrew) birthday, in fulfillment of the verse "The number of your days I will fulfill." As is known, Moses was 120 when he passed away on his birthday, about which our Sages commented: "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, fills up the years of the righteous from day to day." When a righteous person departs this world on the same day he was born, it emphasizes that his service of G-d was "full" and complete on the material as well as the spiritual plane.

The following day, the 10th of Kislev, is also celebrated in Chabad circles, as it marks the date in 1826 when the Mitteler Rebbe was released from prison. Accused of illegally channelling funds to the Holy Land, the Mitteler Rebbe refuted all the charges against him (proving that all monies went directly to the poor) and demonstrated that the documents used to implicate him had been forged. Indeed, the Mitteler Rebbe so impressed the authorities that the informer who had slandered him was told to "stop barking like a dog."

It is said that on the Shabbat afternoon when word came that the Rebbe would be freed, he was in the midst of delivering a Chasidic discourse on the verse "You are One." (The Mitteler Rebbe was permitted to deliver Chasidic discourses to 50 of his Chasidim twice a week even while imprisoned as his doctor had informed the authorities that this was literally what kept him alive.)

May the Mitteler Rebbe's holiday of redemption lead to the ultimate holiday of Redemption of the entire Jewish people, with the immediate revelation of our Righteous Moshiach.


Thoughts that Count

He dreamed, and behold there was a ladder set up on the earth (Gen. 28:12)

The function of a ladder is to connect top and bottom, to raise up whatever is below and bring down whatever is above. In spiritual terms, the ladder between the upper and lower realms is Torah and prayer, for they enable us to "touch" the very heavens. Prayer raises up and elevates us, whereas Torah study draws down Divine wisdom into the world. And just as one must ascend and descend a physical ladder by climbing its rungs, so too must spiritual progress be orderly and in successive steps. (Sefer HaMaamarim 5708, "Vayachalom Vehinei Sulam")

Behold, angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it (Gen. 28:12)

At first glance the order seems reversed. Wouldn't the heavenly angels have to descend the ladder before they could climb back up? However, whenever a Jew does a mitzva, he acquires for himself a "good" angel that rises up to plead on his behalf; only afterward does it come back down to protect him. (Mayim Amukim)

Because G-d has looked at my affliction, because now my husband will love me (Gen. 29:32)

Metaphorically speaking, G-d and the Jewish people are likened to man and wife. In exile, the Jews suffer from spiritual poverty and affliction. Yet when G-d considers how faithful we remain to Him despite our troubles, His love for us is reawakened and rekindled - a love that will ultimately be consummated with the Final Redemption. (Likutei Sichot, Vol. 22)

Every one that is not speckled and spotted...shall be counted as stolen by me. And Laban said, Yes, would that it be according to your word (Gen. 30:33-34)

Laban agreed to this plan readily, as he sincerely hoped to find stolen goats among Jacob's animals. Evil people derive an inordinate pleasure in finding fault and imaginary defects in those who are honest. (Chatam Sofer)


It Once Happened

There are a select number of tzadikim whose birth and passing occurred on the same day; the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber (the second Lubavitcher Rebbe) is one of them. It was said of him that if one of his veins were to be cut, instead of blood, Chasidut would flow.

In the summer of 1827, the Mitteler Rebbe made the journey to the village of Haditch, the resting place of his father the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Although Chasidic insights usually flowed from his lips, on this occasion he was silent, meditative and elusive.

He had been heard to express certain apprehension concerning the year 5588 (1827-1828), fearing that it would bring severe developments: "My father was to have passed away at the age of 54. He had been presented from heaven with a choice: either death or severe suffering. He chose the second [he was subsequently imprisoned]; it seems that he left the first to me." All of this presaged unhappy events.

The High Holidays were approaching and the Mitteler Rebbe was still in Haditch. Soon it would be 5588. Chasidim arrived in droves and assembled in the house of study which the Mitteler Rebbe had built near his father's resting place. After delivering one of his Chasidic discourses, the Mitteler Rebbe remained at the grave to pray and meditate. When he had finished, he emerged with a radiant appearance and announced to his startled Chasidim, "I have persuaded my father to promise that I will be relieved of my position as Rebbe."

The Chasidim didn't know what to make of this announcement, but it was assumed that the Mitteler Rebbe was indicating to them his intention to fulfill his long-held desire to travel to the Holy Land. They were completely distraught, and asked one another, "How could the Rebbe leave us like this, a flock without a shepherd?"

But when they voiced their fears to the Mitteler Rebbe himself, he assuaged their concern with the reply, "But you will have my son-in-law Mendel, who will be a faithful shepherd," referring to the Tzemach Tzedek.

The Mitteler Rebbe continued his journey going by way of the town of Niezhin, where he was taken ill. His illness progressed and finally he passed away there. It was 9 Kislev, 5588 his 54th birthday.

***

When Rabbi Dov Ber was a young man he met one of his father's Chasidim in the town of Janowitz. The two became involved in conversation during which the young Dov Ber seemed to denigrate the Chasid's achievements in Torah scholarship and Divine service.

The Chasid replied, "How can you compare yourself to me? Look who your father is-he's our Rebbe. How can you compare his spiritual level to that of my predecessors? When you were conceived your parents' intentions were pure and lofty and they managed to bring into this world a pure and elevated soul. That is you. While you were a child growing up in your father's house, he watched your every development and guided your every move. So he achieved his aims in educating you, bringing you to a great level. This is all tremendously impressive.

"With me it was completely different. My father was not a very pious type- he probably grabbed my soul from a big pile of souls heaped up in a corner of heaven. When I was growing up, I ran wild as an untamed goat in the field. I made my own way from early on doing the best I could. Now, I make my living supplying the local peasants with money to buy grain. During the planting season I travel the countryside making deals with them. During the winter, I have to retrace my steps trying to collect the debts. And don't think this is easily done, because it surely isn't. First, you have to buy yourself a bottle of vodka, so you won't freeze on the road. In order to catch the peasant at home you have to travel in the middle of the night, since the peasants rise while it's still dark. When you finally find the peasant, you have to make a l'chaim with him and his wife, too, to get them in a good mood, so that he might want to talk business with you. Finally, after all of this, maybe you'll be lucky enough to get paid. You go around to three or four peasants and go through the whole production at each place. Finally, you're ready to go home, take a quick dip in the mikva and go to pray. Can you imagine what kind of praying I can muster after such a 'preparation' ?"

Now, this Chasid was, in fact, exceedingly humble in describing his very considerable spiritual accomplishments, but his words had a profound effect on young Dov Ber, who found the Chasid's description of his hardships overwhelming.

Upon his return to Liozna, Dov Ber came to his father, full of remorse over his own lack of true spiritual growth. He told his father of the words of his Chasid and added that after his conversation with the Chasid, he felt that all of his achievements were pretty worthless.

When the Chasid next visited the Alter Rebbe, the Rebbe told him, "I am very beholden to you. You have made a Chasid of my son."


Moshiach Matters

The reason this final exile of ours is lasting so long is because the light that will be revealed at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead and the World to Come is the greatest, most elevated light. (From the prayerbook with Chasidic commentaries of Rabbi Dov Ber, the "Mitteler Rebbe")


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