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L'Chaim
February 5, 1999 - 19 Shevat, 5759

555: Yitro

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  554: Beshalach556: Mishpatim  

What's In A Name?  |  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 In A Name?

What's so important about a name, particularly the one a person was given by his parents?

If we take a look at nicknames, furnished by friends or family, we recognize affectionate aliases, descriptive designations, or epitaphs of esteem. But "ye olde" standard name?

According to Jewish teachings, the Jewish name given to a child by his/her parents (a boy at his brit mila, a girl during the Torah reading service) constitutes the soul and life force of the person. Thus, calling someone by his Jewish name stimulates his soul. Calling someone by his full name arouses the entire soul, whereas calling one by a descriptive name motivates individual powers of the soul ("Smarty" arouses her intelligence,"Sweety" arouses his kindness, etc.).

Many of our Sages make reference to the fact that a person's name indicates something about the person and can teach us about him.

If this is true for each of us, how much more so is it true for someone like Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (the wife of the Rebbe), whose yartzeit is commemorated this week on the 22nd of Shevat (February 8 this year). In fact, the Rebbetzin's name teaches us not only about her holy life, but about our lives as well.

On the Rebbetzin's first yartzeit, the Rebbe spoke about her name, as well as the significance to us of the date of her passing:

"Chaya" means "life." The Rebbetzin's life was filled with mitzvot and acts of goodness and kindness. But her deeds did not remain in the realm of the spirit and were not for a select few. Her deeds affected even the lowest points of this world as indicated by her second name, "Mushka"- a name in a foreign language. This indi-cates that the Rebbetzin brought holiness into the world, even into the lowliest parts of this world.

The numerical equivalent of the Rebbetzin's name is 470, which is also the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word 'ait' - time. Time is limited, except when it becomes permeated with spirituality and G-dliness through the study of Torah, prayers, and acts of kindness and charity.

The 22nd of Shevat is the day of the Rebbetzin's passing. The number 22 alludes to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Jewish teachings state that G-d created the world using these letters. These 22 letters, in their myriad combinations, contain the essence of all bounty and good. The intent is to reveal in all matters of the universe the letters of the Torah which are inherent in the created world.

From the Rebbetzin's name and from the date of her passing we can take one combined lesson for ourselves and our lives. We should fill our days with acts of goodness, kindness, and charity that are not merely surface or peripheral but that permeate and penetrate even the lowest parts of this world.

With each individual working toward this end, we will soon see that G-dliness truly permeates this world with the revelation of Moshiach and the commencement of the long-awaited Redemption.


Living with the Rebbe

As we read in this week's Torah portion, Yitro, when the Jewish people received the Torah from G-d, Moses taught it first to the women and then to the men. The Torah states, "So you shall say to the House of Jacob [the women] and tell the Children of Israel [the men]."

Why did the women precede the men in the giving of the Torah?

Our Sages tell us that Moses taught the general principles of the Torah to the Jewish women, after which he learned the minutiae of its laws with the Jewish men. The general principles came first, after which the details and particulars of the Torah's many laws followed.

In fact, this is the prevailing order when it comes to Torah: first come the generalities, then the particulars.

To give an example:

The Jewish people heard the first two of the Ten Commandments directly from G-d - "I am the L-rd your G-d" and "You shall have no other gods" - after which they heard the rest of the Ten Commandments, which were given over by Moses.

Another example: G-d gave the Jews the Ten Commandments - the general principles of the Torah - then He gave them the remainder of the Torah's 613 mitzvot.

Similarly, Moses first taught the general principles of the Torah to the women, after which he went into the details of the laws with the men.

But why were the Torah's principles taught specifically to the Jewish women?

Faith in G-d and fear of G-d are the "general principles" of the Torah, as it states, "And G-d commanded us to keep all these statutes [in order] to fear G-d." In other words, the totality of Torah and mitzvot is merely a corollary of faith in G-d and awe of Him.

Believing in G-d and fearing Him are the foundations of the entire Torah. Women are particularly distinguished in these two qualities; their faith is much more apparent and expressed more openly than it is by men. Jewish women observe mitzvot with simple faith and with a pure and perfect fear of heaven.

Indeed, it is for this reason that the Jewish women merited to receive the general principles and foundations of Torah ahead of the men.

* * *

It was in the merit of the righteous women of that generation that the Jewish people were taken out of Egypt and received the Torah. So too is it in our times: In the merit of our righteous women we will go out of our present exile, and be worthy of learning Torah directly from Moshiach.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 31


A Slice of Life

THE LIVING SHALL TAKE

TO HEART

The Rebbe continuously stated the directive "The living shall take to heart" in his talks following the passing of his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, on 22 Shevat, 1988. This directive is based on the verse in Ecclesiastes (7:2) "It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living shall take to heart."

When one goes to a place of mourning, anecdotes describing the fine qualities of the deceased are usually shared. The living can learn from these stories and improve themselves by emulating these characteristics of the person who has passed on.

Certainly this is true of Nechoma Greisman, who passed away suddenly at the age of 39, on 23 Shevat, 1992. Her passing left thousands in the Lubavitch community, in the world-wide ranks of the Teshuva movement, and in Jewry at large, with a real sense of personal bereavement.

In addition to being amongst the Rebbe's first shluchim (emissaries) to Israel and supporting her husband in all of his work, she devoted herself at every possible opportunity to teaching women. For many years, hundreds of women of all age and levels of observance eagerly attended Nechoma's weekly classes on Chasidic insights into Torah at the Israel Center in Jerusalem and at Machon Chaya Mushka which she and her husband founded and nurtured. As those women fondly recall, each of these classes was not merely a forum for the transmission of information: it was an unforgettable happening, a shared sisterly quest, a joyful igniting of souls. She taught women from the perspective of Chasidut, and taught Chasidut from the perspective of a woman.

But all of her lessons, whether formal or informal, were part and parcel of who she was, as a friend described her, "Nechoma knew in every fiber of her being that there is One Whose will always comes first, and she ran to fulfill each of His mitzvot. She was all of one piece. She had absolute integrity. And her radiance lit thousands of hearts."

Characteristically, she never allowed the constant calls on her time-for teaching, counselling or hospitality-to compromise her total and ever-patient dedication to the daily needs and education of her children.

Nechoma exemplified the concept of a shaliach (emissary) of the Rebbe. As another friend wrote of her: "To be a shaliach only takes a willing heart. But to be a shaliach amongst shluchim takes something special." Nechoma was special, and special people live special lives. What follows are a few short glimpses of how others perceived Nechoma Greisman:

The more I went to her home, the more one particular thing became very clear to me. Time is precious! Just watching Nechoma made you realize this. She calculated every second so carefully yet at the same time a person didn't feel intimidated by her or feel guilty for not being on her level. On the contrary, she would always praise a person and encourage them further.

Everything was action. At one of her classes we were discussing prayer for women. We were all taken by surprise when she told us simply that she prays three times a day. "Ever since the Rebbe mentioned that women should also be careful to say 100 blessings every day, I have been davening three times a day. How else would I say 100 blessings every day? And what's so amazing is that ever since I took this on, it seems to fit in so well with my time. How? I really don't know!!" Those words never left me. To this day, whenever I consider taking on something additional, or whenever I complain, "there isn't enough time for..." I stop and think of Nechomie Greisman. (Devorah Cohen)

I remember sitting up nights with her talking about anything and everything. I never really comprehended how a mothers of nine children could spend so much time talking to me, and still be up and cheerful in the morning.

If there is one thing I learned from Nechomie during the six months I stayed in the Greisman home, it was the importance of hachnasat orchim (hospitality). But Nechomie was not an ordinary person and she did not do this mitzva in an ordinary manner. The guests were not always the easiest guests. Many times they were girls from broken homes who needed a lot of time and attention. I remember asking Nechomie so many times, "How do you have the patience for such people?" I can't even remember now what she used to answer me, but I remember that it really made an impression on me. It was not easy for her either, but she did it, and she did it happily. Nechomie had her calendar booked far in advance. Women were always calling to have the privilege of spending a Shabbat together with her.

Nechomie was known all over Israel as "an American connection." If anyone needed help anywhere, they knew they could rely on Nechomie. There were so many things I learned indirectly from Nechomie. Just watching how she dealt with her husband, her children and everyone around her, taught me a lot. She really gave everything she had to her children. She always dealt so calmly with them and gave each one attention as if he/she was her only child. (Miriam Rappaport)

Nechomie was there the summer we all spent at Bais Chana Women's Institute in Minnesota. Her life had been vastly different from ours. We came from a world where advanced degrees and conferred status were the indication of intellect, yet she had never even attended college. To top it off she was quite a bit younger (in years only) than most of us. But despite these "differences" we were all soon completely under her spell. She helped us through the complexities of every new mitzva with a directness and a warmth that matter-of-factly did away with our fears. Nechomie did not have a judgmental bone in her body. Of course this is one reason why she was the ultimate expression of love of a fellow Jew. For when there is no ego there can be no separation between people.

Nechomie truly taught by example. She had the instinctive ability to fuse together materiality and spirituality and thus live a truly Jewish life. The best example of this is her freezerology. She was an expert in utilizing the freezer, and this was not merely for the sake of being an efficient balabusta-she strove to be an efficient balabusta only so that she could have more time and energy for the truly important things in life, and yet not shortchange her family and guests on nutrition and comfort. As she froze kugels and challah dough and home-made baby food and went on to write articles about it so that other women could benefit from her practical wisdom, she did it "for the sake of heaven." (Sara Chana Schreiber)

Ed.'s note: Nechoma Greisman continues to touch hundreds of women's lives through books published by Machon Chaya Mushka that were compiled from her writings and transcribed from her classes, The Nechoma Greisman Anthology and Through the Eyes of a Woman. Nechoma was the driving force behind Machon Chaya Mushka in Jerusalem and her personality propelled it. It continues to this day, perpetuated by her memory.


The Rebbe Writes

2nd of Shevat, 5740 [1980]

Your letter of Jan. 14th, with the enclosure, reached me with some delay. In it you write about the forthcoming opening of your new business on the 14th of September. May G-d grant that it should be with Hatzlocho [success].

Although you do not mention it, I am certain that the business will be conducted in strict observance of Shabbos and Yom Tov. For, if this is a "must" in the conduct of the home, it is no less imperative that the parnosso [livelihood] should be a Kosher one, in accordance with G-d's Will, which also insures that the income will be spent on good and healthy and happy things both materially and spiritually.

There is also a timely significance in the date of the opening, which is in the week of Shabbos Shiro (Beshalach) followed by Parshas [the Torah portion of] Yisro, the Shabbos of Mattan Torah [when we read about the Giving of the Torah]. In the first, the role of the Jewish woman is emphasized by the song of Miriam, which is followed up by the song of Devorah in the Haftorah, while in the second, we find the commandment "Remember the Shabbos day to keep it holy" as one of the Ten Commandments.

Receipt is enclosed for your Tzedoko [charity], and may it additionally stand you and yours in good stead, particularly that you and your husband should have true Yiddish Nachas [Jewish pleasure] from your children, in good health and ample sustenance.

Hoping to hear good news from you in all above,

P.S. It would be well that you should keep in your business place a Tzedoko Pushka [charity box], into which you as well as your customers could put in a coin, which will further widen the channels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs.

12th of Shevat 5734 [1974]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence of January 30th with the enclosures.

In the meantime, you have surely heard what was discussed at the farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] of Yud [the tenth of] Shevat with particular emphasis on the need to strengthen family unity, and that one of the first steps in this direction is to encourage the practice of having the Friday night meal by all the family together. In this area, as well as in regard to the other subjects discussed at the farbrengen, Jewish mothers and daughters can accomplish a great deal, both individually as well as, and especially, through concerted action, such as the forthcoming Convention of the Neshei u'Bnos Chabad [Lubavitch Women and Girls Organization] in London and the preliminary conferences, as well as those which will follow, with a view to implementing the decisions and projects of the Convention.

I shall be eagerly looking forward to the fruitful results, and may G-d grant that all this will be with the utmost Hatzlocho.

P. S. Although the Convention is scheduled to begin on Tuesday night, it is well known that the three days preceding Shabbos are called "Erev Shabbos," and that Shabbos is the source of blessing for all the days of the week, both preceding it and following it. This is one of the reasons why we begin the Song of the Day, i.e. the special Psalm said on each day of the week, by the declaration, "This day is the first day in (the week of) Shabbos", which has both meanings:

(a) it is the first day of the week, and

(b) it is directly related to Shabbos (see also Ramban on Exodus 20:8, whose explanation along the said lines pertains also to the Halachah [Jewish law]).


Rambam this week

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

21 Shevat 5759

Positive mitzva 176: appointing judges and officers of the court

By this injunction we are commanded to appoint judges to enforce the observance of the Torah's commandments; to compel those who have strayed from the path of truth to return to it; to command the performance of what is good and the avoidance of evil; and to inflict whatever penalties are incurred. It is contained in the words (Deut. 16:18) "Judges and officers shall you make for yourself in all your gates."


A Word from the Director

This Monday will mark the eleventh yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of blessed memory, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In the year after her passing, the Rebbe spoke often about the concept of "And the living shall take to heart" - that by performing practical mitzvot and good deeds in the Rebbetzin's memory, the departed's soul is elevated even higher. In the years since, numerous educational institutions, tzedaka organizations and outreach programs have been founded in the Rebbetzin's name, and hundreds if not thousands of Jewish girls are proud to be named after such a holy woman.

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, daughter of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, was a symbol of all the positive attributes Jewish women have embodied throughout the ages, incorporating a profound sense of modesty and unwavering devotion to truth with a sincere consideration for others. Deliberately shunning the spot-light, she consistently fled from any recognition of her special status, choosing instead to "work behind the scenes" with countless individual acts of kindness and self-sacrifice for her fellow Jews. The many stories about the Rebbetzin that began to surface only after her passing paint a picture of an exceptional Jewish figure whose entire life was an example of nobility, devotion and courage.

In her later years the Rebbetzin's health was less than optimal, yet she was so self-effacing that she refused to "bother" her husband with her problems. "It is very important to me to avoid causing the Rebbe sorrow," she once replied when someone pointed out that if people could come from around the world to seek the Rebbe's blessing for such matters, surely she could do the same.

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka chose to live in the "shade" of the luminaries who surrounded her. But by striving to emulate her example, we ensure that she continues to illuminate our world forever.


Thoughts that Count

And Yitro heard (Ex. 18:1)

Yitro was not alone in hearing about the Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea. What made Yitro different was that only he drew the right conclusion and acted upon it. Many people listen but don't truly hear; the words fail to penetrate their hearts and minds. Yitro heard - and correctly recognized what he was hearing. (Rabbi Mendele of Kotzk)

And Israel encamped there against the mountain (Ex. 19:2)

Why was the Torah given on a mountain? A mountain and a patch of level ground are both made up of earth; the only difference is that the mountain is higher, its earth heaped up in a pile. Likewise, the Torah was given for the purpose of refining the physical world, that we raise and elevate it to G-dliness and holiness. (Sefer HaMaamarim Tav-Shin)

I am the L-rd (Havaya) your G-d (Elokecha) Who took you out of the land of Egypt (Ex. 20:2)

Havaya, the un-utterable four-letter name of G-d, refers to an aspect of G-dliness that is above nature, implying past, present and future. Elokecha (Elokim), the numerical equivalent of which is the same as hateva (nature), alludes to G-dliness as it is enclothed in the natural order. "The L-rd your G-d" teaches that the essence of every Jew is also super-natural, endowed with the strength to overcome all obstacles and limitations imposed by nature. (The Previous Rebbe, Sefer HaMaamarim Tav-Shin-Zayin)

You shall not covet (Ex. 20:17)

How can a person prevent himself from desiring something that is truly desirable? The following analogy is given: The poor peasant doesn't entertain the notion of marrying the king's daughter; not even in his heart of hearts does he dream of being her husband. The very idea is absurd, outside the realm of what is possible. Similarly, when we realize that another person's possessions have nothing to do with us, coveting them becomes impossible. (Ibn Ezra)


It Once Happened

The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Shneersohn, sent a long letter to his daughter, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, describing the personal metamorphosis several individuals underwent as they became Chasidim. Although it is a personal letter from father to daughter, the first 120 pages of it became public. The conclusion of the letter, however, remained private. The following story is excerpted from that letter in connection with Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka's yartzeit on the 22nd of Shevat.

One day there was excitement in the study hall of Zaslov: two emissaries of the Baal Shem Tov-the tzadikim Reb Nachman Horodenker and Reb David Furkas-arrived on a mission from the Baal Shem Tov [known also as the Besht]. The Besht had instructed them to raise the sum of sixty gold florins that very day. This money was needed for pidyon sh'vuyim [redemption of captives]; the entire sixty florins had to be delivered immediately by special messenger, for time was short.

The emissaries arrived just as the people were finishing the recitation of Psalms. As soon as the emissaries finished speaking, a list was drawn up of all residents of the town who were the Baal Shem Tov's Chasidim. A Rabbinical Court was constituted to assess how much each citizen could afford to contribute. This court appointed collectors to go to peoples' homes immediately and collect the imposed tax. If there was anyone who did not have sufficient cash on hand, they could take from him some article of value as collateral until the sum was paid in cash.

Within less than three hours, the collectors returned to the study hall with the full amount of sixty gold florins. They had also drawn up a ledger in which they had recorded the names of those who had paid their assessment in cash, those who had made pledges and given collateral, and those who had given loans guaranteed by the collateral taken from those who had not yet paid.

Just then, wailing was heard in the antechamber of the study hall. Several women whose husbands were not at home had arrived: one was a tailor who worked somewhere in the country; one was a peddler who went from place to place with a pack full of merchandise; one was a teacher at an inn.

These women had heard that the Besht had sent emissaries to collect contributions for a great mitzva. Since no one had approached them to ask for a contribution, they had come themselves, bringing pledges (for they had not cash on hand). One had brought her candlesticks, one had brought a kiddush-and-havdala goblet, another had brought a down-stuffed pillow.

The collectors, in turn, declared that their mission was to demand cash or pledges from those whose names appeared on the assessment list given to them by the court. From people whose names did not appear on the list, they had no authority to accept cash or pledges. Upon hearing that their husbands' names were not even mentioned on the list, the women raised such a cry that even Reb Nachman and Reb David heard it, and became very frightened.

When the members of the Rabbinical court learned that the collectors had returned with their mission accomplished, they hurried through the rest of their prayers. Against their better judgment (for the husbands were very impoverished Chasidim), they accepted the pledges from the women. The special messenger was dispatched to bring the sixty gold florins to the Besht.

When the Besht's emissaries finished praying, a feast was prepared in honor of the great privilege the Besht had bestowed upon them. For the Besht loved them so much that the had given them the privilege of participating in the mitzva of pidyon sh'vuyim; he was so devoted to the Chasidim in Zaslov that the had sent to them the two famous tzadikim. All the Chasidim were in such a joyful mood: you can't imagine how great their delight was.

When the feast was finished, Reb Nachman spoke about the women who had wept while begging the collectors to accept their contributions toward the sum the Besht had assessed the Chasidim of Zaslov. "The Rebbe," said Reb Nachman, "is very fond of simple Jews. He says that a simple Jew who recites a chapter of Psalms with his whole heart and sincerely loves his fellow Jew is favored by the Supreme King more than great tzadikim.

"How profoundly genuine those women's tears were! Their sole desire was for their husband's names to be included in the list of those assessed to contribute money for the great mitzva of pidyon sh'vuyim. A mitzva is so precious, and the Besht so sacred to them, that when their husbands' names were omitted from the list their poor hearts broke and they burst out weeping. How precious such tears are to the Master of the World; how sweet and delightful they are to the Angel Michael and his 180 thousands legions of defending angels! Such genuine heartfelt tears can annul all evil decrees."

Reb Nachman then related an awe-inspiring story about an evil decree against an entire Jewish community. When a certain woman uttered a few truly sincere words that came from the depth of her heart while she wept profusely, the decree was annulled. "If only we would weep on the holy Yom Kippur with the same sort of tears with which our own women wept!" he concluded.

Translated by Shimon Neubort and published by Sichos In English in The Making of Chasidim.


Moshiach Matters

Prior to the Redemption, when the quality of self-sacrifice for a higher goal is less understood, men dominate. Women, however, who represent a state of utter nullification to G-d will be truly appeciated in the Era of Moshiach. When G-dliness finally pervades the world openly, the uniqueness of her Divine essence will shine with remarkable radiance. (The Crown of Creation by Chana Weisberg)


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