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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   539: Bereshit

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549: Vayigash

550: Vayechi

Shemos Exodus

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Devarim Deutronomy

December 25, 1998 - 6 Tevet, 5759

549: Vayigash

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  548: Miketz550: Vayechi  

Sealed With A...  |  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

Sealed With A...

by Yehudis Cohen

When I received "Chanuka Seals" this past month from the American Lung Association of Brooklyn I was delighted. I eagerly opened the envelope, examined the seals and the enclosed fund-raising material, and actually thought of sending in a donation-something I had never considered over all the years of receiving the usual holiday seals.

After the initial surprise at this novel twist on holiday seals wore off, I began wondering why I had been so delighted to receive the Chanuka seals. I phoned a number of people to find out what their reaction was or would have been.

A friend in Brooklyn, born and bred in tough New York City, cyn-ically dismissed it as a fund-raising gimmick to tug at Jewish heartstrings and get money."

But I focussed more on my reac-tion than on the intent of the mailer.

I phoned a relative in Connecticut who, surrounded by trees, wreaths and lights at this time of year, simply stated that she would have loved to have received them and if I wasn't going to use them would I kindly pass them on to her.

Another friend, thoughtful, philosophical, and as idealistic as I am, suggested that my delight centered around the fact that Jewish people intrinsically like to be around Jewish objects, to do Jewish things, to be reminded and to remind others that we're "part of the tribe."

I remember the many times I've walked down the streets of Manhattan on Shabbat with my sons proudly wearing their yarmulkas, and am told "Shabbat Shalom" by a street vendor or diner in an outdoor cafe.

I contemplate the reaction of guests to our home when they see the Jewish artwork decorating our walls, mezuzot on every doorpost, Shabbat candlesticks standing ready to be lit on the upcoming Shabbat and to help make the world a brighter place.

I consider the eagerness with which people who have never been exposed to the joy of Shabbat accept invitations to experience Shabbat, overcoming any hesitation by pre-facing their acceptance with a shy-"You'll tell me what to do, I don't want to do anything inappropriate."

I think of the Rebbe's words, said firmly, lovingly, unequivocally over and over, that many if not most Jews in our generation are considered like children who were kid-napped in infancy and raised among non-Jews. We are not willingly transgressing mitzvot; we do not purposefully trample on the Torah: we are anusim-forced to transgress just as Jews throughout the ages were forced. But with a difference. Today we are not compelled by Greeks or Romans, or Crusaders or the Inquisition. We are forced by our lack of Jewish knowledge, our lack of Jewish community, our lack of Jewish leadership, our total immersion in the non-Jewish world around us. In short, we are forced by this long and bitter exile.

The Rebbe's generous appraisal of the lack of observance and Torah study by our generation, of course, is not meant to serve as permanent immunity. It does, however, serve as guidance to those who have had the benefit of a strong Jewish education to refrain from looking down on another Jew. And it serves to inspire the pintele Yid, the Jewish spark in each one of us that feels good when we perform a mitzva, when we see a Jewish sym-bol, when we recognize and connect with another Jew, to "grow up" and mature from the status of kidnapped child and to become a full-fledged adult in the Jewish community.

Living with the Rebbe

We read in this week's Torah portion, Vayigash, that when Pharaoh learned that Joseph's brothers had come to Egypt he instructed Joseph to give them grain as a gift for their father Jacob. But from a later verse, "And to his father he sent like this: ten donkeys laden with the best things of Egypt," we see that Joseph added to these gifts. Joseph did not ask Pharaoh's permission, but acted on his own initiative. The opportunity to do the mitzva of honoring his father had arisen, and he hastened to perform it in the most beautiful manner possible. Not only would Jacob receive a gift of simple grain, but "the best things of Egypt."

The lesson is clear: Whenever the opportunity to perform a mitzva comes our way we must do so as soon as possible, to the best of our ability and in the finest manner we can.

* * *

As Rashi explains, Joseph's gift of "the best things of Egypt" consisted of "aged wine" and "Egyptian pol," a variety of broad bean. These beans were the crowning agricultural product of Egypt. Joseph sent his father the very best that Egypt had to offer.

Joseph knew that when his brothers returned and told their father that "Joseph is still alive" the news would cause him great pain over the fact that they had sold him in the first place. Joseph wanted to spare his father suffering and ease his anguish as much as possible. This desire was expressed in his choice of pol:

Pol is a legume; each bean is separate from the others. At the same time it was considered to be a very special type of food. Joseph's gift sent the message to Jacob that sometimes great benefit is derived precisely through separation. In truth, Joseph's separation from his family yielded much good, just as pol was regarded as a great delicacy in the ancient world.

Joseph also sent his father a quantity of aged wine. Wine is a substance that brings happiness and pleasure. Joseph and his brothers had abstained from wine throughout the 22 years of their separation as an expression of grief, as did Jacob. The wine was intended to bring Jacob pleasure.

However, regular wine would not do; Joseph sent him wine that was aged and thus of better quality. Joseph thereby alluded to the fact that although he had been in Egypt for an extended period of time, he had never lost faith that they would one day be reunited. For 22 years no wine had passed his lips, yet he had saved and preserved it in anticipation of his eventual reunion with his father.

From this we learn that whenever a Jew finds himself in "Egypt," beset by troubles and adversity, he must never despair. Even in the most difficult of circumstances he must strengthen his faith in G-d in the belief and hope that G-d will help him overcome his predicament.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 10

A Slice of Life

by Yehudis Cohen

"Until my late teens I was totally convinced that there was no G-d," begins 21-year-old Sara Korn. She went to Hebrew school and had a Bat Mitzva party, but belief in G-d was something her mother never spoke of and her father insisted he didn't have.

Sara, who grew up in Pomono, New York, says that following the Grateful Dead made her more serious and introspective. "I started realizing that there had to be a Creator. It was a big revelation for me. But I didn't connect my belief to any kind of practical actions."

After finishing high school, Sara began following the Grateful Dead to concerts across the continent. Her parents, both lawyers, were unhappy that she was not in college but, as ex- hippies themselves, they understood Sara's journey.

It was at a Grateful Dead concert in Las Vegas, that Sara met "Butterfly." "We connected immediately. Somehow it came up that he also believed in G-d, but part of his belief was that G-d must want something from us. I started thinking that maybe G-d wants more from me than just being a 'Dead-Head.' We became good friends. We went to yoga and meditation centers together. And we also went to Butterfly's aunt and uncle, Devorah and Moshe Korn, who are part of the Lubavitcher community in Morristown, New Jersey.

"One thing I saw in Devorah was that she was as spiritual as I was but that her spirituality found expression in her commitment to Torah living."

Soon Butterfly started going by his Jewish name, Dov Yona. Slowly he began putting on tefilin, observing Shabbat a little, reading books on Chasidic philosophy and stories of the Rebbe. Sara and Dov Yona continued going to Grateful Dead concerts and searching for more meaning. "I went along with the Jewish stuff because I had a sense that it was true, and if it was true I knew I should be doing it."

But, as Dov Yona got more involved in observing mitzvot, Sara started feeling more out of touch with him. She decided to attend a massage therapy school near San Francisco and that once school started, they would go their separate ways. Dov Yona was going to a yeshiva and "Judaism wasn't the path that I wanted to take," Sara says.

Dov Yona called Sara from yeshiva periodically to encourage her to pursue a Jewish outlet for her spiritual feelings. Sara, meanwhile-caught up in massage, meditation and natural foods-hoped that these avenues would help her find fulfillment.

Going home for winter break made Sara realize that she wasn't any happier. "Nothing had changed. In fact, I felt as if in some ways I had gone backward in my search for spiritual fulfillment."

Sara went to Boston to catch some Phish concerts. After one concert, a man started talking to her about his Christian "community" in Vermont where they give themselves to G-d and to eachother. "I thought this might be the place where I could really learn to be selfless. I spoke to him the entire night. My original plans had been to spend time with my mother and then with Dov Yona before going back to school. But instead, I took my last $30 and caught a bus to Vermont."

Sara called her parents when she arrived to let them know where she was. "My mother was really devastated. It was painful for me that my parents were so hurt. But the community members had convinced me that this was what G-d wanted from me, so I was willing to be in pain."

When Dov Yona found out what had happened, he immediately called Sara. "I was confused after speaking with Dov Yona. I wasn't so sure anymore that I had done the right thing. Never before or since have I prayed to G-d more intensely. 'I'll do whatever You want. I just want to do the right thing,' I kept on telling G-d."

At 5:00 a.m. the next morning Sara was awakened and told that there were two Chasidic men and a woman who wanted to talk to her. Sara assumed that the visitors were Dov Yona and Devorah Korn and didn't want to speak with them. But she was told, "You have to talk to them or they'll think we're keeping you against your will."

Before undertaking the journey, a seven-hour drive from Morristown, Devorah and Dov Yona had written a letter to the Rebbe for guidance on how to get Sara away from this Christian cult. They placed the letter at random into one of the volumes of the Rebbe's letters and the page they opened to read, "Even if you have to travel far distances to accomplish the task..."

Sara spoke to Devorah and Dov Yona for two hours and decided not to go with them. "'If Torah is really true, I will find my way back to you,' I said. But they just sat there at the end of the driveway in their car. I went back to speak with some members of the community who told me I'd be eternally punished if I left. I was afraid to leave."

Yet, when she came out to the car one last time to say she wasn't going, she had second thoughts. "During those few minutes, something 'outside' me told me to get into the car and tell them to drive away. I did! As we were driving I had an uncanny sense that I had finally made a decision which was putting me on the right path. I felt so relieved. So were my parents when we called them."

Sara decided to go straight to Machon Chana, a women's yeshiva in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. "I knew it was the right thing but it was still a hard transition to such an intense Jewish environment."

Sara called Dov Yona once in a while for "moral support" and their respective mashpiim (mentors) agreed that they study together once a week. "Dov Yona really knew me. He was able to give me insights into my feelings and struggles."

Before long, Sara and Dov Yona were engaged. "My parents and Dov Yona planned our entire wedding so I could devote myself to Torah study," Sara recalls.

Sara and Dov Yona were married last fall. Sara continued studying Torah full-time for the first few months and more recently began teaching at the Chabad nursery school in Brooklyn Heights. Dov Yona is in the midst of his studies for rabbincal ordination and works part-time in outreach with Chabad of Washington Square in Lower Manhattan.

What's New


Dial-A-Study-Partner is a unique project for women sponsored by Machon Chana Women's Institute. Participants choose from pre-arranged subjects or a topic of their own and study with a partner over the telephone. Whether you're a beginner or someone with more background, D.A.S.P. could be the perfect opportunity for you. For info call (718) 493-8983.


The Chabad Center of NW New Jersey, in White Meadow Lake, recently dedicated a new Torah scroll. During the celebration, which included carrying the Torah under a chupa into the Chabad House, there was festive dancing, and the writing of an additional scroll was begun.

The Rebbe Writes

21st of Sivan, 5725 [1965]

You have undoubtedly received my regards through Rabbi-, who had also brought me your regards...

I acknowledge with thanks receipt of your letter of May 9th, also your works on your scientific research. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and trouble in sending me this material. Although the subject matter is entirely beyond my province, I trust that I will be able to glean some general ideas from your writings, and perhaps also some specific ones.

At the risk of not sounding very "scientific" to you, I nevertheless wish to express my hope that you will also apply your research work to good advantage in the service of G-d, in accordance with the principle, "Know Him in all thy ways." Indeed, the discoveries in the natural sciences have thrown new light on the wonders of Creation, and the modern trend has consequently been towards the recognition of the unity pervading Nature. In fact, with every advancement in sci-ence, the underlying unity in the physical world has become more clearly discernible; so much so, that science is now searching for the ideal formula which would comprise all the phenomena of the physical world in one comprehensive equation. With a little further insight it can be seen that the unity in Nature is the reflection of true monotheism in its Jew-ish concept. For, as we Jews conceive of monotheism, it is not merely the belief that there is only One G-d, but that G-d's unity transcends also the physical world, so that there is only one reality, namely G-d. However, inasmuch as Creation included all the souls, etc., there has been created a multiplicity and diversity in Nature-insofar as the created beings themselves are concerned, without, how-ever, effecting any change in the Creator, as explained at length in Chasidus.

You ask me about my reference to the Rambam and where it contains in substance, though in different terms, the concept of the conscious and subconscious of modern psychology. I had in mind a passage in Hilchos Gerushin (end of chapter 2), in the Rambam's magnum opus, Yad Hachazakah. The gist of that passage is as follows: There are certain matters in Jewish Law, the performance of which requires free volition, not coercion. However, where the Jewish Law requires specific performance, it is permitted to use coercive measures until the reluctant party declares "I am willing," and his performance is valid and considered voluntary. There seems here an obvious contradiction: If it is permitted to compel performance, why is it necessary that the person should declare himself "willing"? And if compulsory performance is not valid, what good is it if the person declares himself "willing" under compulsion?

And here comes the essential point of the Rambam's explanation:

Every Jew, regardless of his status and station, is essentially willing to do all that he is commanded to do by our Torah. However, sometimes the yetzer (hara) [evil inclination] prevails over his better judgment and prevents him from doing what he has to do in accordance with the Torah. When, therefore, beis din [Rabbinical court] compels a Jew to do something, it is not with a view to creating in him a new desire, but rather to release him from the compulsion which had paralyzed his desire, thus enabling him to express his true self. Under these circumstances, when he declares "I am willing," it is an authentic declaration.

To put the above in contemporary terminology: The conscious state of a Jew can be affected by external pressures that induce states of mind and even behavior which are contrary to his subconscious, which is the Jew's essential nature. When the external pressures are removed, it does not constitute a change or transformation of his essential nature, but, on the contrary, is merely the reassertion of his innate and true character.

To a person of your background it is unnecessary to point out that nothing in the above can be construed as a confirmation of other aspects of the Freudian theory to the effect that man's psyche is primarily governed by libido, etc. For these ideas are contrary to those of the Torah, whose view is that the human being is essentially good (as the Rambam, above). The only similarity is in the general idea that human nature is a composite of a substratum and various layers, especially insofar as the Jew is concerned, as above.

I will conclude with the traditional blessing which I have already conveyed to you through Rabbi-: to receive the Torah with joy and inwardness, as a daily experience through the year.

Rambam this week

in memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman (yblc"t)

8 Tevet 5759

Negative mitzva 252: wronging a convert by speech

By this prohibition we are forbidden to wrong a righteous proselyte [someone who has converted to Judaism according to Torah law] by speech. It is contained in the words (Ex. 22:20) "A stranger you shall not wrong" and (Lev. 19:33) "You shall not do him wrong."

A Word from the Director

This Tuesday is the Tenth of Tevet, one of the four commemorative fasts associated with the destruction of the Holy Temple. On that date Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Jerusalem, ultimately leading to the Temple's destruction and the exile of the Jewish people.

The First and Second Holy Temples were constructed without iron. Iron, with its potential to be forged into weapons, has negative and harmful connotations. Indeed, the siege of Jerusalem that began on the Tenth of Tevet is associated with iron, as iron represents the exact opposite of the Holy Temple.

But iron can also have a positive dimension. The Land of Israel is described in the Torah as "a land whose stones are iron." Similarly, a Torah scholar is encouraged by our Sages to have "the strength of iron." By using iron and the strength it symbolizes in the sphere of holiness, the negative dimension of iron can be corrected and nullified.

This process will find its culmination in the era of the Redemption, when not only will the negative aspects of iron be nullified, but completely transformed into positive factors. Unlike the first two structures, the Third and eternal Holy Temple will be constructed with iron, which will be used for reinforcement. (The Book of Chronicles relates that King David prepared a large amount of iron with which to build the Temple, yet there is no record of it actually being used. It is explained that David, the progenitor of Moshiach, prepared the iron for use in the Third Holy Temple.)

Thus although the Tenth of Tevet commemorates a tragic event, it can also be seen as the beginning of a positive process of construction, as the destruction which began on that day was intended to ultimately lead to the Third Holy Temple.

May we merit to see it materialize immediately.

Thoughts that Count

And Joseph could not restrain himself...and he cried: Cause every man to go out from me (Gen. 45:1)

As Rashi notes, Joseph did not want the Egyptians to witness his brothers' public humiliation. As personal problems are not to be flaunted, he ordered everyone present to leave the room except for his family. Years ago people were more circumscribed and reluctant to air their dirty laundry publicly. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for today... (Peninei Kedem)

For in order to preserve life has G-d sent me before prepare for you a posterity on the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance (Gen. 45:5,7)

The darkness of the exile makes it hard to perceive G-dliness, or to arouse the natural, innate love for G-d that is the birthright of every Jew. But G-d has mercy on His people Israel, and in every generation sends us one tzadik (righteous person) like Joseph, whose function is to diffuse light to each individual soul and enable it to contemplate G-d's greatness. (Torat Chaim)

Do not be sad, nor be angry with yourselves that you sold me (Gen. 45:5)

Sadness and anger are connected and feed off each other. Joseph told his brothers not to be sad; once they were in a better frame of mind, their anger would naturally dissipate. (Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar)

And he sent his brothers away and they departed, and he said to them, Do not quarrel by the way (Gen. 45:24)

There are many true and valid ways of serving G-d within the context of Judaism, all of which are positive and holy (provided that they do not contradict the fundamental principles of the Torah). Joseph was counselling his brothers to avoid quarrelling over individual "styles" of G-dly service, for they are all "the words of the living G-d." (Divrei Yisrael)

It Once Happened

For Yossele the peddler, just making a few coins each week was tough. So, it was no surprise when his wife said, "Yossele, I can't sleep at night, I'm so worried. You know, most of the time we don't have even bread in the house!"

"G-d has His ways of sending blessings. We may be the next in line!" With those words Yossele set out to try his luck in the villages around Leipnick. Just as Yossele reached the main road a mail coach dashed by, dropping in its wake two envelopes. Picking them up, Yossele noticed the inscription on one: "Enclosed are 30,000 marks. Forward to Mr. X." Yossele stuffed the envelope in his pocket. Then he cried out to the driver, "Stop, you dropped an envelope!" The driver halted, Yossele returned the second envelope, and the driver was off.

Yossele immediately headed for home and told him wife triumphantly, "Did I not tell you that G-d would bless us? This money was Heaven-sent. It fell from the mail coach just as I was standing there! We have no more worries!"

"What!" cried his wife. "Are you crazy? Don't you understand that this is plain stealing? I know we are poor, but that doesn't qualify you to be a thief!"

Yossele was surprised by his wife's reaction. "The government guarantees the mail. They will pay for the loss. No one will suffer. Why are you so upset?"

Seeing that her husband had no intention of returning the money, the wife tried a different tactic. "Yossele, since you returned one envelope, you will be the natural suspect. When they search the house and find the money they'll take you to jail!" Now, this argument had an effect on Yossele, but not the one his wife had intended. For Yossele pushed aside a heavy chest, lifted up a floor board and stashed the money inside.

Soon after a government soldier and the coach driver arrived at the door. They interrogated him thoroughly, but Yossele staunchly maintained his innocence. Finally, the coachman said, "Why question him any further? It is obvious that he is innocent. After all, he did return one of the envelopes."

This infuriated the soldier. "Now I see! The two of you cooked up the whole thing! You're both under arrest!"

And so Yossele was carted off to jail. While the townspeople talked of nothing but the injustice done to poor Yossele, his poor wife wracked her brain thinking how to return the stolen money.

One morning she awoke with a plan. The rabbi of the town, Rabbi Boruch Frenkel-Teomim, would surely find a way of returning the money. She immediately set out for the rabbi's shul, but when she arrived there, he was deeply engrossed in Torah study. Not wanting to interrupt him, she simply threw the envelope through his study window and quickly left.

The rabbi looked up to see an envelope sail through his window. When he examined it he was deeply disturbed. What if this was an attempt to libel the whole Jewish community for theft? He placed the envelope on the floor exactly where it had landed and left the building to meditate on a solution.

Suddenly he saw the bishop of Leipnick coming towards him. He had always enjoined the bishop's respect; now he would put their cordial relationship to good use. The two men exchanged greetings, and then the rabbi asked, "Do you ever receive confession from those not of your faith?"

"Yes, sometimes I do," the bishop replied.

"And is that confession always kept confidential?"

"Confession is strictly confidential."

"I cannot come to the church, but I would like to come to your home and make my confession."

The bishop's profound respect for the rabbi prompted him to agree. When they arrived at the bishop's residence the rabbi explained the situation and asked the bishop to return the money, saying that he had received it during confession. The bishop agreed, and soon the money was discretely returned.

Yossele was now a free man. Whatever happiness Yossele felt, however, evaporated as soon as he returned home and faced his irate wife. "Yossele," she demanded, "go to the rabbi, thank him and admit to the whole thing." He didn't want to go, but what choice did Yossele have? His wife was right-again.

When the rabbi saw Yossele, he was overjoyed. Yossele soon dispelled any misconceptions with his innocense. "Well, at least the sin is rectified," the rabbi solemnly said, after making him promise that he would never steal again.

As they were speaking the bishop arrived with the 500 marks reward for returning the money. "Here is your money," the bishop told the rabbi.

"Absolutely not," the rabbi replied. "Your deserve it for your trouble."

"No," insisted the bishop, "it's yours. If you refuse, at least take it and distribute it to the poor."

Suddenly the rabbi had a thought: "Here is Yossele, the one who suffered the most. In addition, he's very poor. Why not give him the reward money?"

"What a wonderful solution," the bishop agreed. Yossele was understandably reluctant to accept the money, but with some gentle persuasion, he agreed. With the money, he opened a small business which brought him a comfortable living. For the rest of his life, Yossele was scrupulously honest, gave charity with an open hand, and always thanked G-d for his wondrous redemption.

Moshiach Matters

The primary goal in creating Adam was to bring forth King David and his descendants, the main one being Moshiach-He should come speedily in our days. This is hinted at in the acrostic for the Hebrew word Adam: "alef" for Adam, "dalet" for David and "mem" for Moshiach. The main purpose of creation was for the generation of Moshiach.

(Rabbi Shalom of Belz, the Sar Shalom)

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