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January 8, 1999 - 20 Tevet, 5759

551: Shemot

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


  550: Vayechi552: Vaera  

What's All The Fuss About... Kabala  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  The Rebbe Writes
Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count  |  It Once Happened
Moshiach Matters

What's All The Fuss About... Kabala

by Laibl Wolf

We are living in an era of gross materialism. While the sixties and early seventies were marked by youth-ful aspirations to change the nature of society, the eighties were a period of greed and egotism. The nineties has seen the pendulum swing across again as a reaction to the unnatural stance of materialism, leading some to a period of spiritual search.

The human being is, by nature, a creature of the spirit. Just as Einstein demonstrated that the "flip side" of mass is energy, and as quantum physics have shown that matter is both wave and particle at the same time, the future insight will be that everything is spirituality at its core. So, a spiritual creature by nature, the human being will inevitably seek his essence. This is happening today.

But is the Kabala accessible? The Zohar (the classic Kabalistic work by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai) predicted that a time would come when the "fountains of wisdom would burst open." This was made possible through the rise and teachings of Chasidism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most specifically, the Chabad Rebbes have made these spiritual depths of Torah open to all. The Lubavitch Rebbe was adamant that women should have an even more profound understanding of these teachings in view of their changed roles in modern society.

Modern approaches to the nature of human motivation began with Freudian teachings, only to be upstaged by the Jungian model of a collective consciousness that we manifest through archetypes, which then gave way to Adlerian notions of seeking power, and soon to the humanist psychologist like Maslow, and gestalt therapists, etc., Today, we find ourselves speaking of a transpersonal psychology. The Kabala teaches that the primary human motivation is to transform two into one. This means to bridge the chasm of difference and create unity. Love is the epitome of this process.

To attain a loving and caring disposition requires sensitivity plus work on our inner selves. The detailed spiritual template with which Kabala equips us through Chasidic psychology affords a wonderful opportunity for personal refinement and growth. For example, love is primarily the product of the spiritual flow of Chesed (kindness). At the same time, an overindulgent flow of love can overpower and repel-the very opposite of its intent. Hence, a person needs to become fluent in the practice of Gevura-the spiritual capacity of self-containment.

These are but two of ten features on the spiritual template-a system that yields 49 distinct emotions for self-exploration and self-mastery. An appropriate, consistent, and deep expression of love can manifest when we have identified and mastered our Mind and Heart. This is what a behavioral approach to Kabala can provide.

The manual of Torah, and especially its deepest understanding through Kabala and Chasidism, is an indispensable tool and technology to allow the Jewish soul to reach it fulfillment.

The 24th of Tevet is the yartzeit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. This year is 200 years since Rabbi Shneur Zalman was imprisoned in Czarist Russia because of his dissemination of Chasidism.

Reprinted from Farbrengen, published by Chabad of California.


Living with the Rebbe

As we read in this week's Torah portion, Shemot, when G-d told Moses of his mission to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt, Moses replied, "Behold, I will come to the Children of Israel and say, "The G-d of your fathers has sent me to you.' And they will say to me, 'What is His Name?' What shall I tell them?"

Why did Moses think that they would ask him this? Surely the Jews were familiar with the "G-d of Abraham"; certainly their forefathers had told them. And why wouldn't Moses know what to answer?

Our Sages explain that G-d has many Names. G-d is referred to according to His actions. Each of G-d's Names symbolizes a different way in which He interacts with creation. Elokim connotes G-d's attribute of justice; the Name Havaya connotes His attribute of mercy.

Thus the question "What is His Name?" really asks "In which way will the redemption from Egypt come about?" Will it be through G-d's attribute of justice or through His attribute of mercy?

But what difference would it make how the redemption happened? Isn't the main thing that their suffering would be coming to an end? Besides, isn't it self-evident that the redemption would be derived from G-d's attribute of mercy?

In truth, the question "What is His Name" is a very difficult one to answer. The Jewish people wanted to know how it was possible for G-d to have allowed them to suffer so terribly in Egypt. They wanted to know with which "Name" G-d had chosen to act, i.e., how it was possible for the redemption to come only after such a lengthy period of exile.

"What shall I tell them?" Moses asked. Even Moses was perplexed and did not know how to answer.

Replied G-d: "I Will Be What I Will Be...thus shall you say to the people of Israel, 'I Will Be has sent me to you.' ...This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance unto all generations."

What was G-d's answer to the question "What is His Name?" "I Will Be What I Will Be." Rashi explains that this means "I will be with them throughout their travail." G-d was telling Moses that He would accompany the Jews into exile and suffer together with them, as it were. The Jews would not be abandoned in Egypt, G-d forbid, nor would He ignore their pain. Not only would G-d be with them in Egypt, but He would share in their anguish and distress.

G-d said, "This is My Name forever - le'olam." In this verse, le'olam is spelled without the letter vav, alluding to the word helem - concealment. In exile, G-d's attribute of mercy is hidden. Surely G-d accompanies the Jewish people into exile, but His attribute of mercy is in a state of concealment, only to be revealed when the time for redemption has arrived.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 26


A Slice of Life

Rabbi of Cyberspace

When his "congregants" read of his passing on their Jewish lifeline, Chabad of Cyberspace, the tributes began to pour in. The New York Times described Y. Y. Kazen as a "Web pioneer" but to thousands of subscribers and visitors around the world his site was their only connection to Jewish learning and answers to their constant questions. In his last months, Kazen kept a laptop computer in his hospital room so he could continue corresponding with his flock. The following is just a sampling of hundreds of notes sent to the Kazen family during the Shiva,-- week of mourning.

I was just an e-mail address on the internet but Rabbi Kazen always answered my questions, helped me over some rough spots and seemed to always have time-no matter how outrageous or trivial my question might have been-to answer me. I can recall many times coming home from work and immediately checking my e-mail to see if Rabbi K. had answered my latest query. His response was always there.

I am so blessed for having had the opportunity to "meet" him. His responses, suggestions, and learned answers have eased my path back to Yiddishkeit and for that I will be forever grateful to him. My life will never be the same. I, too, will miss him.

Signed as he knew me, "Bubbe"

I am a Reform Jew from Boston who only recently discovered Chabad over the Web. It has brought me closer to my Judaism every day. I have been impressed by the insights and applicability to my everyday life. Chabad.org has also brought me closer to my uncle, who is in Chabad. He lives in South Africa, but we discuss Jewish issues, among other matters, via e-mail. The rabbi, through his work over the Internet, helped make a connection between a Jewish boy, his uncle, and the religion that connects them both. I am sorry for your loss,

G.R.

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of Rabbi Kazen. As busy as he was, he always took the time to answer my questions-even the smallest ones! And even though I'm not frum, he was so happy to know that I lit Shabbos candles-he made me feel as if what I was doing was the most important thing in the world. I was so proud to perform mitzvos for the sake of my young daughter, I even sent him a photo of my child, because I felt as if he were my big brother.

He has such a friendly, breezy style, and he didn't want to be called "Rabbi Kazen," only "YY." By sharing his vast knowledge over the internet, he definitely made it "cool" to be Jewish!

D.K., Wantagh, Long Island, NY

I only knew him through the internet, but he was a guiding light for me and an inspiration. Because of my contact with him, I built my first sukkah at the age of 55!

Y.R.

Though living in a far away land (Malta ) and never having the privilege to meet him personally, on the few occasions I sent him messages, he always responded promptly with an encouraging response. I could feel the closeness and warm humanity he had for his fellow Jews.

L.A., Malta

I am a blind person that uses the chabad.org Internet Service. Most texts are not readily available in Braille. The information and knowledge that I have amassed from study over the Internet has been beyond imagination. I so deeply appreciate that chabad.org is out there and that I can count on the Listserv to send me very inspirational material weekly.

I had the great fortune to speak with Rabbi Kazen in my role as the organiser of a Web event. Within seconds of speaking with him on the phone, I felt a strong and vibrant connection, as though we were old friends. He told me numerous stories of the vision of the Rebbe to see the importance of the Internet, and how Rabbi Kazen was his Shaliach (emissary) to this new world. Some days later I arrived, with my mother, at 770. As soon as Rabbi Kazen walked into the room I knew I had found the right guy. To be honest, it was the wild gleam in his eye, his broad emanation of spirit, like a bright sunny morning. Rabbi Kazen spent many hours with us, showing us the work he did, together with his son, in his dense circuit-filled warren, telling us his visions and dreams, and then taking us on a techno-centric tour of the entire facility, to see all the wonderful technological marvels Chabad had developed from the earliest days. We were wowed. And not only by the gizmos. Also by the way in which he poured himself into his work and by the love he brought to his mission and craft. He told us all about himself and his life with plain open candor and honesty. I had never had any contact with Lubavitch before and, I must tell you, this was the best possible way in which it could have been presented. It must have been by the hand of G-d.

M.K.

This past year I have returned to my Judaism, in no small part because of the knowledge handed down to me from Chabad on the Internet. Chabad on the net has changed my life and has lead me to Torah study and doing mitzvot. Thus Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak has changed the world through me and I will miss him. But he will be a part of me forever. Such power from a man who never looked into my eyes but who spoke to my soul anyway.

Mitchell in L.A.

YY was a Mensch! In so many ways he helped me! My mother died, my wife lost her first pregnancy... he counseled me. A more patient and considerate teacher never was. He never had enough time in the day, so many demanded his attention and he always found time to teach me... A Goy!

T.M. Halifax, Canada

YYK is with his General now. Mission accomplished. Job well done. The Cyberfront has been secured. The enemy has lost precious ground. As for the Bigger Picture, who knows the King's Plan of Attack? Who knows the strategy of His Top Brass? Who knows how many more battles must be fought? For the rest of us here, on the front lines: Don't' dig in! Never relax! Push forward! Push on! The War is not over!

Chicago

Since 1995, Rabbi Kazen provided invaluable service to our small Jewish community location a remote US Army post in Garmisch, Germany. For months or years-almost on a daily basis-we turned to him for information, clarification and advice on a variety of halachic and community issues. I always received response in a few hours. He guided all of us with patience, tolerance and great love of the Torah and the Jewish people. Today, the original Jewish community in Garmisch no longer exists but those who remained have all become observant and rediscovered the Torah lifestyle-in one way or the other. We are all indebted to Rabbi Kazen.

Professor N.H. Marshall Center APO (Germany)


The Rebbe Writes

Zos Chanukah, 5734 [1973]

This is in reply to your inquiry about my opinion in regard to the idea of your joining a Kolel [yeshiva for married men].

It is, of course, well known that "Talmud Torah k'neged kulam" [the study of Torah is equivalent to all (mitzvot)] which is said every morning, even before the regular prayers. Nevertheless, there can be a situation where other things take precedence over it. I have in mind, particularly, the situation of our present-day Jewish youth, a situation which is that of Pikuach Nefesh [a threat to life].

To be sure, when a person considers what his special duty is, there are, generally, options, depending on the category he may belong to. There are Jews whose main task is to study Torah, and those whose main task is to engage in Mitzvoth and communal activities, and those whose task is to engage in Chinuch [Jewish education] and work with our Jewish youth to bring them to a life of Torah and Mitzvoth, etc.

The said options, however, can be considered all only when one is at the beginning of the road and is to make a choice. In your case, however, since you have already been active in youth work for a number of years and have seen that you have had Hatzlocho [success] in your work, and Hatzlocho in an area where it is very doubtful that anyone else could have had such Hatzlocho, namely the time element is very important, since the sooner a Jewish boy or girl begins to observe the Mitzvoth the more certain it is that they will be saved-your option has already been decided by Hashgocho Protis [Divine providence]. Consequently, I can see no justification for you to abandon this sacred work, G-d forbid.

Yet, if as you write, you have a strong desire to learn Torah and increase your knowledge, etc., you can do so by taking time off matters of Reshus [option-al, permissible activities], but not at the expense of the time which you have to devote to the Chinuch of G-d's children, so to speak. Be it remembered that we are speaking not of a Chinuch which aims at making a small Lamdan [Torah scholar] into a big Lamdan, which is also a great thing, but of the kind of Chinuch which must be done to preserve young people within the fold of our Jewish people, save them from assimilation, etc., all of which need not further be elaborated to you.

To summarize: It is plain and clear that you should continue your Chinuch activity without detracting from it, though you may explore the possibility of using your other available time for learning Torah. If this spare time is not sufficient, there is another option, and that is to find a part-time sub-stitute for some of your activities which you can safely transfer to such a substitute, under your supervision and responsibility.

If you may still be apprehensive as to how much you can accomplish in your Torah studies under such limited conditions, I would like to remind you that the beginning of the Alter Rebbe's Sefer Torah Or [a work of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism], which follows the Sedras [portions] of the Torah (the Likutei Torah, though named differently, is the second part of Torah Or, as is well known), i.e., the first Drush [commentary] and on the first page, contains the quotation [English translation of the Hebrew verse]: "Tzedoko elevates etc., that by giving Tzedoko a person's mind and heart become refined one thousand times" And although in the plain sense of it it deals with ordinary Tzedoko, it is clear that the Posuk [verse], hence the Drush, encompasses also spiritual Tzedoko, such as Chinuch activity in which you are privileged to engage. In other words, the great Zechus [merit] of your continuing in this area will bring you extraordinary Hatzlocho in your own Torah studies in your spare time-"a thousandfold." According to the Tzemach Tzedek [Rabbi Menachem Mendel, third Chabad Rebbe] in his commentaries on this Drush, the said phrase is not just a manner of speaking, but actually means what it says, without exaggeration.


Rambam this week

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

23 Tevet 5759

Positive mitzva 196: lavishing gifts on a Hebrew bondsman

By this injunction we are commanded to furnish a Hebrew bondsman liberally with gifts when he gains his freedom, so that he does not go out empty-handed. It is contained in the words (Deut. 15:14) "You shall furnish him liberally out of your flocks, etc."


A Word from the Director

This Tuesday is the 24th of Tevet, the yartzeit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chasidism. The name Shneur means "two lights," and indeed, throughout his life Rabbi Shneur Zalman caused the two lights of Torah to be illuminated: nigleh, the revealed part of Torah, and Chasidut, its hidden, esoteric aspect.

What is light? Light does not create anything new; it merely allows for something that already exists to be seen. The introduction of light makes revelation possible.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman revealed Chasidism by bringing down even the very highest philosophical concepts into the intellectual faculties known by the acronym "Chabad" (chochma, bina and daat-wisdom, knowledge and understanding). He explained these concepts in a way that every Jew can understand. Rabbi Shneur Zalman also authored the Shulchan Aruch, a work of halacha, Jewish law.

When a person studies a Torah concept and grasps it intellectually he becomes "enlightened" - the concept is revealed before him in all its clarity. Of course, the concept was there all along, but the person couldn't "see" it. Understanding the concept is thus synonymous with revelation, for both reveal something which was already in existence.

In truth, this was the sum and substance of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's Divine service, illuminating the world with the two lights of nigleh and Chasidism. Rabbi Shneur Zalman made it possible for the Torah, which already existed, to be revealed to every Jew, enabling everyone to comprehend it in a manner in which it is truly "seen."

This ability to perceive G-dliness will reach its culmination in the Messianic era, when even the most difficult concepts will be immediately grasped and understood just by "looking" at G-d's creation.

May it happen immediately.


Thoughts that Count

These are the names of the Children of Israel coming into Egypt (Ex. 1:1)

Although usually translated into English "who came into Egypt," the literal Hebrew is in the present tense. The reason is that throughout the 210 years of Egyptian exile, the Jewish people felt as if they had just arrived. The entire experience would only be temporary; they were always aware that it was not their land and they were not at home. (Ohel Yehoshua)

And all the soul(s) that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy soul(s) (Ex. 1:5)

The Children of Israel are referred to in the collective singular, "soul," whereas Esau's descendents are described in the plural, "souls." The sphere of holiness is characterized by awe of G-d, self-nullification and unity. (Think of two royal ministers, who, despite their disagreements, become totally nullified and of one mind in the presence of the king.) The opposite of holiness, however, is characterized by disunity and plurality. (Siddur, with Chasidic notes)

And she said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children" (Ex. 2:6)

Why "one of the Hebrews' children" and not "a Hebrew child"? As Rashi notes, the baby's cry was stronger than that of an infant, "like a young lad's." When Pharaoh's daughter was surprised by its intensity, Miriam explained that it was "one of the Hebrews' children": not an individual voice, but the collective crying of all the Jewish babies who had been sentenced to drown. (Meir Einei Yesharim)

How did Pharaoh's daughter know that the child was Jewish just from hearing him cry? Because a Jewish cry is unique; together with despair it contains an element of hope. A Jew is always hopeful even when he cries. (Rabbi Mordechai Chaim of Slonim)


It Once Happened

Today, Maimonides (known by the acronym Rambam) is universally held in the greatest respect. Among his contemporaries, however, many were suspicious of his level of religious observance. The great rabbis of Germany dispatched Rabbi Meir to Spain to ascertain the level of religiousity of this controversial rabbi.

When Rabbi Meir arrived in Cordoba, he proceeded to the Rambam's residence. A servant admitted him and announced that his master would join him shortly. Soon Rambam entered the room and greeted his visitor, and invited him to dine. But when Rabbi Meir entered the dining room and glanced at his dinner plate, he felt faint. One of the items on his plate looked identical to a human hand. Could the renowned Rambam be a cannibal? he wondered. A very queasy Rabbi Meir politely refused any food, claiming not to be hungry.

Rambam suggested that perhaps a cool glass of wine might perk his appetite. "Patrus," he called to his servant, "please go to the cellar and bring up a jug of fine wine for our guest." Again Rabbi Meir was confused. Patrus was obviously a non-Jewish name, and yet Rambam was sending him to fetch wine in violation of the prohibition against drinking wine touched by a non-Jew. It was beginning to look like all he had heard about Rambam's heretical tendencies was true.

Rabbi Meir declined the wine, pleading exhaustion from his long journey. When Rambam offered him hospitality for the night, he was only too glad to accept and retired to his room to ruminate on his observations. Before he retired, Rabbi Meir overheard Rambam telling Patrus to kill a calf for the next day's repast. This was too much to bear. Had the great Rambam fallen so far from Jewish observance as to eat meat which was not even slaughtered according to the laws of the holy Torah?

That night, despite his exhaustion, Rabbi Meir was more awake than asleep. He concluded that he had no choice but to confront Rambam directly. He would reveal his identity and the purpose of his visit, and then he would demand an explanation for Rambam's audacious and obviously heretical behavior.

Rabbi Meir had barely fallen asleep when morning dawned and he was awakened by a knock on his door. There stood Rambam's servant, informing him that his master wished a word with him. Rabbi Meir nervously made his way to the room where Rambam stood with his hand out and a broad smile on his face. "My dear friend and colleague, I know exactly who you are and why you have come. I am aware of the fact that the great rabbis of Germany have sent you to examine the level of my observance of the laws of Torah. I also know why you refused to partake of any food yesterday at my table and why you refused to drink my wine. I know that you were so upset that you spent the entire night pacing the floor, worrying about my eating human flesh, drinking prohibited wine and eating meat which was not properly slaughtered.

"You may ease your mind, for now I will explain all of these apparent transgressions and put an end to your doubts. After you hear my words, you will agree that all the suspicions which have been voiced regarding me are untrue, and furthermore, you will understand how dangerous it is to cast suspicion on a person based only on outward appearances.

"The food which you took to be a human hand is actually a type of vegetable which grows in this part of Spain, but not in Germany. It is very nutritious, and as a doctor, I am careful to eat a proper diet."

"Of course," thought Rabbi Meir, "how could I have suspected him of cannibalism. But still, didn't Rambam drink the forbidden wine and eat non-kosher meat?"

Rambam continued his explanation, refuting Rabbi Meir's suspicions about the wine. "My servant, Patrus, is an observant Jew. Surely you will recall that the father of one of the Sages of the Talmud was also called Patrus - Rabbi Yose ben Patrus is mentioned in Bereishit Rabba!"

Again Rabbi Meir regretted his doubts. Now he was sure that his final question would be explained away and he waited for Rambam's elucidation.

"You know that a calf which was removed from the womb of a cow which was slaughtered according to the laws of Torah is considered as if it had been slaughtered according to the law. This is the calf I wished to serve in honor of your visit," the Rambam concluded.

When he heard these words, Rabbi Meir was so overcome with emotion that tears poured from his eyes. Thinking of all the calumny which was heaped upon this great Sage was more than he could bear, and Rabbi Meir made a contrite apology for himself and the others who had sent him. What a terrible mistake they had made, judging the scholar from afar. Rambam accepted the apology and the two parted as friends.

In the many towns and cities Rabbi Meir passed through along his return route from Spain to Germany, he made it a point to announce: "From Moshe our teacher to Moshe the son of Maimon, there was never such a Moshe."


Moshiach Matters

Anyone who does not believe in Moshiach, or whoever does not look forward to his coming, denies not only the teachings of the other prophets but also those of the Torah and of Moses our teacher. (Maimonides' Mishne Torah, Laws of Kings 11:1)


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