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L'Chaim
January 22, 1999 - 5 Shevat, 5759

553: Bo

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


  552: Vaera554: Beshalach  

A Prince Of Israel  |  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

A Prince Of Israel

From the Charlton Heston classic, to the most recent offering in cartoon form, Hollywood has found a hero in our holy Torah. Indeed, Moses was a Prince, but in Hebrew he is known as Nasi B'Yisrael, a prince in Israel, as are many of the great leaders of Jewish history. The word Nasi (prince), Jewish teachings tell us, is an acro-nym for Nitzutz shel Yaakov Avinu -a spark of Jacob our ancestor.

This teaching underscores how the great leadership of all the generations is one continuum. Each generation's prince or leader is a continuation of Jacob and manifests some of the same essential characteristics as Jacob.

Of all the forefathers of the Jewish people it is specifically Jacob, described by our Sages as the "chosen of the Patriarchs," with whom our leaders are associated. This is because Jacob was unique in that all his children followed in his path, unlike Abraham and Isaac who each had a child who strayed from his ways.

Jacob's influence on his children, however, was so complete and all-inclusive that all of his children followed in his ways. Thus, Jacob's twelve sons became the Twelve Tribes from whom the entire Jewish people is descended. That the leader of the Jewish people in each generation is called a "nasi" and is connected to Jacob underscores that he reaches and impacts every single member of his generation.

These thoughts echo once more as we commemorate the anniversary of the passing of the previous Rebbe on 10 Shevat-Wednesday, January 27 this year. This is the date when the Rebbe accepted the leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement and he became established as the Nasi HaDor, the prince or leader of the generation, connecting back all the way to Jacob our ancestor.

Described by the Rebbe in his first public discourse as the last generation of exile and the first generation of the Redemption, our generation, and its leader, becomes the last link in this chain. Our generation is the one which will see the culmination and fulfillment of all the promises and aspirations of those who went before. We will experience the peace, prosperity, health and knowledge that will characterize the Messianic Era.

For our part, to hasten the long-awaited and painfully overdue Redemption we should, as the Rebbe directed, increase in acts of goodness and kindness; enhance our observance of mitzvot; upgrade our study of the Torah, particularly those aspects that relate to Moshi-ach and the Redemption; open our eyes to the fact that we are literally standing on the threshold of the Redemption and that the world is ready for this new reality.


Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion we read this week, Bo, contains the commandment to observe Passover: "For seven days you shall eat matzot." The Biblical obligation to eat matza on Passover applies in our times as well.

How are chametz (leavened bread) and matza different? Both contain flour and water, so what makes matza unique? What can we learn from the mitzva to eat matza on Passover and the prohibition against eating chametz?

Chametz is dough that was allowed to rise and grow in bulk. Matza is dough that is thin and flat; even after it is baked it remains the same height as before.

Chametz is symbolic of pride and elevation, of arrogance and an inflated sense of self. It is symbolic of a person who considers himself superior to everyone else around him.

Matza, by contrast, is symbolic of humility and self-abnegation. Its flat dough symbolizes a person who is completely nullified to others - the exact opposite of chametz.

The Hebrew letters of the words chametz and matza are almost identical: chet-mem-tzadik, and mem-tzadik-hei. The only difference between them is one letter (i.e., one word contains a chet, the other a hei). Furthermore, the chet and the hei are almost the same shape; both are formed with three lines and have an opening at the bottom.

This opening at the bottom alludes to the verse in the Torah "sin lies at the opening" - the space through which sin can intrude upon an individual and cause him to transgress.

Here we see the important distinction between chametz and matza: The chet in chametz is completely closed at the top. The sin that has entered cannot escape; it remains inside and can't get out. The person who has committed a sin finds it difficult to let go, to abandon his wrongdoing and distance himself from transgression.

The hei in matza, however, has a small opening at the top - the opening through which a person can repent and return to G-d. Yes, it's only a small opening, but all that is necessary is one small move in the right direction, and G-d accepts our repentance and helps us return.

Chametz is symbolic of a person swollen by his own self-importance. If he sins it is very difficult for him to admit having made a mistake. He will always find excuses to justify his actions. A person like this is trapped within the "chet" and cannot find his way out.

Matza, on the other hand, alludes to a person who is modest and humble. If he sins, he doesn't try to justify what he's done, but is immediately sorry and regretful. His heart is broken, and he is aroused to repentance. Through the tiny opening in the hei he draws nearer to G-d; he corrects his behavior and returns to Him with a full heart.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 1


A Slice of Life

HE IS THE REBBE

by Rabbi Nissim H. Hayward

It was midwinter of 1949 when I caught the first glimpse of the man who would change my course in midstream and shape my destiny. At that time, I was a student at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York. One of my senior colleagues from Shanghai, Rabbi Isaac Levy, had invited me to a festive event at 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights-a completion of the entire Talmud for that year and the distribution of tractates to be studied during the next cycle.

I arrived approximately ten minutes early to find only standing room available. At a long table set up in the main study hall, the elders, Talmudic scholars, and rabbinical leaders of the community were all seated, presenting a venerable "Council of Sages." On the dot of the hour, a tall, handsome man in his forties entered the room, meticulously dressed in gray and with a black beard. The entire assembly stood up in respect as he took his place at the center of the table, quickly and unassumingly. "Who is this?" I asked, and was told, "He is the Rebbe's son-in-law." I stopped for a moment to ponder this most unusual sight. I analyzed the contents of this young Rabbi Schneerson's remarks, as I did his mannerism. His delivery was precise-without dramatics, emotional outbursts or sophistical rhetoric-simply to the point.

I saw in Rabbi Schneerson the ideal spiritual mentor. A profound intellectual and yet, full of compassion. A perfectionist par excellence, commanding a strict self-discipline, but always considerate of another's frailty. This proper balance helps man to utilize his full potential and attain elevation both spiritually and materially. A most novel achievement indeed, but only a few have risen to this level of distinction.

In retrospect I can understand why the Previous Rebbe felt it necessary to alert the elders of the community to prepare for his son-in-law's arrival. "My son-in-law is an extremely humble and unassuming individual; he will not expect you to honor him, but you should know with whom you are associating. Even in the days of the Alter Rebbe he would have been among the cream of the crop!"

Among the distinguished guests I met that day was Rabbi Meir Ashkenazi, o.b.m., the Rav of Shanghai. Upon leaving, he remarked, "Nissim, in Mir you've been learning Torah-why don't you come to us now and learn about the Giver of the Torah?" And so it was.

During my last semester in the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Montreal, Canada, I had the unique privilege to dorm at the home of the renowned chasid, Reb Peretz Mochkin. One time, when I shared with him my reflections of the Rebbe's greatness, he replied, "The Rebbe possesses all the levels of greatness we attribute to him, but this is not the Rebbe. It is only after our understanding has reached its peak that the Rebbe begins."

A Rebbe is a neshama k'lalis-an all-encompassing soul. All the souls of the Jewish people are bound up with his soul; that is why he can feel the pulse of each and every one. The closer the attachment to the tzadik and leader of the generation, the closer is the attachment to one's Maker.

Where can we find scholarship and piety at their highest level, embodied in one human being? In the Rebbe. If we try to emulate the Rebbe's degree of brotherly love, we can rest assured that Moshiach will be revealed forthwith.

* * *

by Rabbi Yitzchok Gansburg

On Thursday, 8 Shevat, 5710 (1950), the Lubavitcher community in Tel Aviv received the exciting news that the Rebbe Rayatz (the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn) would allow some of the yeshiva students to come to him in New York to learn in the main Lubavitcher yeshiva in "770."

The next ship was to leave the port of Haifa three days later, on Sunday. By then, those on the list had to get a passport and secure permission from the Ministry of the Interior to obtain foreign currency which was needed to purchase a ticket.

That Thursday night I went to my fiance's home, where I was told that my future brother-in-law, Reb Yoel Kahn, was one of the students who had been given permission to learn in 770. However, finances were very difficult and my father-in-law could not afford the ticket.

I decided to do everything possible so that Reb Yoel could go. I borrowed money and began taking care of the other details. The Tel Aviv offices of the Ministry of the Interior were closed but I decided to go anyway. With G-d's help I managed to meet a friend, a senior officer at the Ministry, who arranged for a valid passport and special permission to buy foreign currency.

It was now just before dawn on Friday. The ticket could only be purchased at the Bank Leumi in Haifa. By the time I arrived the bank had already closed. But again, by Divine Providence, I met a friend who had connections at the bank. Through him I got into the bank and purchased the ticket.

I returned to Tel Aviv, arriving at my fiance's house on Friday right before Shabbat. I can't begin to describe their tremendous joy.

Sunday morning, we all went by train to Haifa. My father-in-law spent the entire journey talking about the wonderful privilege his son had in being able to go to the Rebbe Rayatz.

In the afternoon we arrived at Haifa port. After an emotional parting, the fortunate students boarded the boat and we waited for them to set sail.

In the meantime, one of the chasidim had bought that day's newspaper. One cannot even begin to imagine the chasid's utter shock when he read that the Rebbe Rayatz has passed away the previous day. The news stunned us all. Immediately, an announcement was made of an emergency meeting to be held that night in Tel Aviv.

(The yeshiva students who had boarded the boat did not find out until they arrived in New York. When they arrived, they considered going straight back to Israel. But the Rebbe told them that since the Rebbe Rayatz knew what would happen, and he had still invited them, this was a sign that he wanted them to stay. They all stayed on.)

At the emergency meeting, the main item was to write a letter of allegiance to the Rebbe Rayatz's successor. The Rebbe Rayatz had two sons-in-law, the Rebbe (known then as the "Ramash"-Rabbi Menachem Schneerson) and the Rashag (Rabbi Shmaryahu Gurary). Rabbi Avrohom Pariz declared that having worked in the same room as the Rebbe for ten years, he had seen the Rebbe's righteousness and genius. He called out: "I know the Ramash. I can tell you that he is hiding his true self. I'm telling you, he is the Rebbe!"

His words made a great impression on all the chasidim at the meeting, and most voted to crown the Ramash. At first, he refused to accept the leadership. But the chasidim continued to press him and there began to be signs that the Rebbe would accept the appointment.

On the 11th of Shevat, 5711, when the Rebbe officially accepted the leadership of Chabad, all Lubavitchers devoted themselves to him heart and soul. They took on the special task of the seventh generation, which is to bring G-d's presence into this physical world with the revelation of Moshiach.

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach.


The Rebbe Writes

25th of Shevat, 5736 [1976]

This is to confirm receipt of your correspondence, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.

Since the daily life and conduct in accordance with G-d's Will is the channel and vessel to receive G-d's blessings, it is well to bear in mind that every additional effort in matters of Torah and Mitzvos is bound to bring additional Divine blessings in all needs, although the Torah and Mitzvos must be fulfilled for their own sake.

In connection with Yud Shevat, the Yahrzeit of my saintly father-in-law of blessed memory - at whose holy resting place you and yours will be remembered in prayer - it is timely to reflect on his lifelong and selfless dedication to strengthen and spread Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. The inspiration of his life and work should surely stimulate each and every one of us to follow in his footsteps with great dedication on our part. All the more so, since his prayers and blessings accompany everyone who carries on his sacred work, for Hatzlocho [success] in this and in all personal needs.

13th of Shevat, 5740

January 31, 1980

President Jimmy Carter

Greeting and Blessing:

I appreciate very much your gracious and thoughtful felicitations, conveyed in your letter of January 28, 1980. Your warm sentiments are most encouraging to me and to the movement which I have been privileged to head these past thirty years.

Ever since our two-centuries young Chabad-Lubavitch movement made its headquarters in this blessed country forty years ago, then under the leadership of my illustrious predecessor of saintly memory, it has found a much fertile soil for its dedicated services in the cause of religious, educational and cultural advancement in many states of the Union from coast to coast. And may I add that your personal commitment to the ideals of morality and justice, human rights, and the upgrading of education has greatly enhanced the conducive and stimulating climate for all positive forces working for a better human society, not only in this country but also abroad, wherever American influence and practical aid make their impact.

I heartily reciprocate your good wishes, and hope and pray that the Eternal continue to bestow His blessings on you and your family, and grant you health and vigor to meet the challenges and opportunities of your exalted office for the true benefit of all dwellers in this great country, as well as for the benefit of humanity at large, in the fullest measure both materially and spiritually.

I also take this opportunity of expressing to you my genuine gratification at your personal participation in the ceremony of lighting the Chanukah Candelabra in front of the White House. The symbol of light is universal for all people on earth, Jews and non-Jews. The intrinsic power of light, in that even a small light dispels a lot of darkness, is surely a source of inspiration to all men of good will with its eternal message of the eventual triumph of all that is good and bright in human life.

With esteem and blessing,

13th of Shevat, 5740

January 31, 1980

The Honorable S. E. Eizenstat

Greeting and Blessing:

It was a distinct pleasure to see you and greet you personally at the thirtieth anniversary celebration of Yud Shevat. I was also deeply gratified on being informed of the very impressive address you delivered at the dinner reception preceding the farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] in tribute to our Lubavitch movement before that distinguished audience.

I sincerely appreciate your warm senti-ments and good wishes, which I can best reciprocate by reiterating the dictum of our Sages, "He who blesses others is blessed by G-d Himself." Accordingly, may you and yours be blessed "out of His full, open, holy, and ample Hand," in a most generous measure, materially and spiritually.

Included in the above is also the blessing for Hatzlocho in the high position which Divine Providence has bestowed on you to be closely associated with the President of the United States, with extraordinary opportunities of rendering public service on the highest level, for Jews and non-Jews, both in this country and in many parts of the world.

With all good wishes to you and yours, and

With esteem and blessing,


Rambam this week

In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman (yblc't)

7 Shevat 5759

Prohibition 242: taking food utensils as a pledge

By this prohibition we are forbidden to take in pledge utensils which are used in the preparation of food, such as vessels for grinding, kneading or cooking, or implements for slaughtering animals. It is contained in the words (Deut. 24:6) "No man shall take the lower or the upper millstone to pledge; for he takes a man's life to pledge."


A Word from the Director

On Wednesday, the Tenth (Yud) of Shevat, we will commemorate the passing of the Previous Rebbe in 1950. On the anniversary of that day in 1951, the present Rebbe officially accepted the position of leadership and delivered his first Chasidic discourse, "Basi Legani."

This discourse was truly ground-breaking, laying the foundation of the Rebbe's work over the next few decades. In no uncertain terms it described the uniqueness of our gen-eration and the special role we play in history.

The core revelation the Rebbe introduced is that ours is "the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption." During the past seven generations of Jewish history, beginning with the inception of Chabad Chasidism, Divine consciousness has been progressively refined. Ours, the seventh generation (and the reincarnation of the generation that left Egypt with the Exodus), is similarly poised on the threshold of the Redemption.

"This is not through our own choice or a result of our service; in fact, it might often not even be to our liking. Nevertheless...we stand on the 'heel of Moshiach' - the very edge of the heel - ready to complete the task of drawing down the Divine Presence...into the lowest realm possible."

This knowledge implies a responsibility that is incumbent upon each and every one us. As the Previous Rebbe wrote in a letter, every Jew must ask himself, "What have I done and what am I doing to alleviate the birth-pangs of Moshiach, and to merit the total Redemption which will come through our Righteous Moshiach?" Every mitzva we do, every good deed or increase in Torah study has the potential to tip the scales, to bring the ongoing historical process toward the Messianic era to its ultimate conclusion.

As "Basi Legani" concludes, "Let us all merit to see and be together with the Rebbe, in a physical body and within our reach, and he will redeem us."

May it happen immediately,


Thoughts that Count

And let them ask every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor...and G-d gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians (Ex. 11:2-3)

When Jews are helpful to one another - offering assistance in times of need, acting kindly and loaning things to each other - G-d grants them favor even in the eyes of their enemies, and showers them with abundance and good fortune. (Toldot Adam)

This month shall be unto you the beginning of the months (Ex. 12:2)

As part of the Sanctification of the New Moon we say, "David, King of Israel, is alive and well." The moon "disappears" each month, yet no one worries that it won't be back in all its glory. Similarly, although the sovereignty of the House of David appears to have ended, we have complete faith that it will be restored when King Moshiach is revealed. (Rama)

Draw out and take for yourselves lambs...and kill the Passover sacrifice (Ex. 12:21)

The Children of Israel were commanded to purchase these lambs for the Passover sacrifice from the Egyptians. Because the Egyptians worshipped the lamb as a deity, it was disqualified for use as an offering. Buying it from them, however, would remove this taint and make it permissible, according to the law: "An object of idolatry sold by a non-Jew nullifies its status." (The Rebbe of Sochotshov)

Remember this day, on which you went out from Egypt (Ex. 13:3)

Why is the Exodus from Egypt so central to Judaism, considering that the Jewish people were later subjugated to other nations at other times in history? The answer is that the Exodus forever changed the nature of the Jew's soul. By virtue of the Exodus, every Jew became "free" on the ultimate, objective level, making it impossible to enslave his essence. (The Maharal of Prague)


It Once Happened

by Rabbi Bentzion Grossman

To those who live in Jerusalem, Rabbi Eliezer Chaim Streicher is a familiar figure. Rabbi Streicher is known for his unwavering trust that G-d will come to his assistance when he is in need. Many stories are told about the salvation that came to him in the nick of time.

As a young man, Reb Eliezer Chaim learned in yeshiva, where he devoted himself to Torah study day and night. After he was married he began to search for a job, but could not find a suitable position.

After consulting with several friends, all of whom told him that it was easier to make a living in the United States, he decided to move to New York. The young couple relocated to the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, and Reb Eliezer Chaim found a job without difficulty.

However, with every passing day, Reb Eliezer Chaim found that he had less time to devote to his beloved Torah studies and spiritual pursuits.

It became obvious to Reb Eliezer Chaim that he had to make a decision about where his life was going. He was hesitant to leave his job and return to full-time Torah study. And yet...

With these thoughts going through his mind, Reb Eliezer Chaim went to pray in a small shul that he did not usually frequent. He came across a book that spoke about the importance of trusting in G-d. A person who has trust, the author wrote, can be assured that G-d will never abandon him wherever he goes.

The book made a strong impression on Reb Eliezer Chaim, and he decided that from that day on he would rely on the beneficence of G-d. With his wife's approval, he left his job and began to study Torah full-time in a kollel-a yeshiva for married men. He faith and trust in G-d, that the Alm-ghty would provide him with his livelihood from another source, was unshakeable.

A few years passed and the Streichers decided to return to Israel where Reb Eliezer Chaim would continue to devote his life to Torah study. Indeed, G-d took care of the Streichers. Several friends helped them out and within a short time of their return to Israel the couple was settled in a furnished apartment in one of the religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Years passed. Reb Eliezer Chaim found that he missed the insights and guidance of the Rosh HaKollel, dean of the kollel, in New York. He decided that he would travel to New York for a short while to see him. Again, G-d provided Reb Eliezer Chaim with the necessary air fare in the merit of his trust.

Before leaving, however, Reb Eliezer Chaim consulted with his wife, in accordance with the Talmud's instruction to obtain one's wife's permission before embarking on a journey. She agreed, but on one condition: that he buy clothing for their children when he was in Borough Park. They sat down and figured out how much it would cost: $600 would cover everything. Of course, Reb Eliezer Chaim had not a penny in his pocket when he set off, but he agreed to his wife's condition; G-d would somehow provide.

Weeks passed, during which Reb Eliezer Chaim was happily and dilligently studying in his former kollel in New York. In a few more days he was scheduled to return to Israel; the clothing for his children had been completely forgotten.

On the last day of his visit he suddenly recalled the promise he had made to his wife. There were only a few hours left before he would have to take a taxi to the airport. But what could he do? He still had no money; even if he had, he would have been hard pressed to fit a shopping spree in. Reb Eliezer Chaim put his trust in G-d and continued to learn.

When the door to the study hall opened suddenly Reb Eliezer Chaim looked up from his book. At that hour the study hall was empty, except for the man who was rapidly walking toward Reb Eliezer Chaim.

The stranger was smiling; from the way he was dressed it was obvious that he was a Lubavitcher chasid. The man came over and placed his arm on Reb Eliezer Chaim's shoulder. Reb Eliezer Chaim greeted him warmly and asked, "What can I do for you?"

"The Lubavitcher Rebbe gave me this envelope and told me to deliver it to the person I would find sitting and learning in this study hall." The man handed Reb Eliezer Chaim the envelope and left.

When Reb Eliezer Chaim opened the envelope a small cry escaped his lips. Inside were exactly $600.

Needless to say, Reb Eliezer Chaim made it to the airport on time, his suitcases bulging with the clothing for his children that his wife had indicated.

Years later, Reb Eliezer Chaim was still shocked by what had occurred. "Why are you so surprised?" I asked him when he told me the story. "Hadn't you seen with your own eyes time and time again how G-d came to your assistance whenever it was necessary?"

"Never mind that G-d knew about my problem and came to my aid," Reb Eliezer Chaim replied. "That I can understand. But how did the Lubavitcher Rebbe find out?"

From Beis Moshiach magazine.


Moshiach Matters

Our generation is the last generation of exile and the first generation of the Redemption. As my sainted father-in-law, the one whose yahrtzeit we commemorate, announced and publicized many times, all requirements have already been completed and all that is necessary is to actually greet our righteous Moshiach...Our Divine service consists of bringing the Redemption into reality, for this generation and for all generations preceding it! This means, that this generation concludes the work and Divine service of all preceding generations of Jews. (20 Shevat, 5752)


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