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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   588: Bereshit

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
October 8, 1999 - 28 Tishrei, 5760

588: Bereshit

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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.


  587: Succos589: Noach  

Cures For The Soul  |  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

Cures For The Soul

It is stated in the works of Maimonides that just as there are illnesses and remedies for the body, so too there are sicknesses and cures for the soul. By observing conditions that affect the body, we can make certain inferences about their effect on the soul.

A state of illness generally implies either a deficiency or a weakness in some part of the body. There is, however, a certain disease in which the body is not lacking anything; on the contrary, something new is added (such as a growth). At first glance, it appears that this growth should not be a problem; after all, that part of the body lacks absolutely nothing it needs. Nevertheless, this is a condition that can be even more problematic than when something is lacking. The extra protuberance is detrimental to the organ on which it grows, and may even spread to harm other parts of the body.

The treatment for this disease differs greatly from the remedies used to cure other illnesses. Whereas most treatments add something to the body, the remedy for this particular disease is to remove the superfluous growth, allowing the person to become healthy once again.

In the past, this disease was not as prevalent as it is today. Therefore, a cure was not actively pursued. Unfortunately, this malady occurs with alarming frequency these days, and as a result, many new treatments have been devised to combat it.

In the spiritual realms, we are now living in an age when the "footsteps of the Moshiach" can be heard, heralding an end to the darkness which is symptomatic of the period of exile. In anticipation of the obliteration of evil, there is a last-minute surge in some negative ways, particularly insolence and arrogance. Although these negative traits existed before, they were never as prevalent as they are today.

In the physical realm, this situation has manifested itself in cancerous growths that take over the body, giving the impression that the afflicted person exists only for the sake of the diseased tissue. G-d provides us with new therapies in the form of Chasidut, revealed only in the past two centuries. The study of Chasidut teaches us how to remove the diseased portion, that manifests itself as arrogance.

For this reason, the study of Chasidut is more important now than ever before. Although its dissemination was not necessary in earlier times, the increasing darkness in the world today requires a corresponding increase in light.

However, the analogy is not perfect. In the physical realm, if one continues with a treatment for an extended time, it can have a detrimental effect on healthy parts of the body. In the spiritual realm, however, one can engage in the study of Chasidut for a lifetime without harm. In fact, such constant study will have a positive outcome: the continuing refinement of beneficial traits.

From "Listening to Life's Messages," (www.chabad.org/gopher/guide/messages/) adapted by Rabbi D. Polter from the works of the Rebbe


Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion of Bereishit spans a period of over 1000 years. It obviously doesn't relate every single event that occurred during that time; only the ones we need to know for the perpetuation of the human race.

In Bereishit we learn of two different men who were named Chanoch. The first was the son of Cain, after whose birth his father established a city "and called it after his son, Chanoch." The second Chanoch was a descendant of Seth, about whom the Torah informs us, "And Chanoch walked with G-d and was not, for G-d took him."

The fact that the Torah tells us what happened to the second Chanoch implies that his fate was important to world history. But what are we supposed to learn from Cain's naming his city after his son? What significance did it have for future generations?

A deeper analysis reveals that the two Chanochs symbolized opposite thrusts from their respective fathers: The first Chanoch was the son of Cain, who slew his brother Abel and sabotaged the continuation of the world. By naming the city he built after his son, it expressed his desire to make amends and to perpetuate humankind. The second Chanoch, by contrast, was a righteous person who nonetheless shunned the world and refused to participate in it. For that reason, G-d took him before his time.

When Cain built his city and named it for his son, it was a sign that his teshuva (repentance) was complete. Genuine repentance involves more than apologizing, recognizing the gravity of one's sin or even accepting punishment; it requires taking practical action to undo the damage.

Cain, whose sin of fratricide "destroyed" the world, did teshuva by causing a new soul to be born and naming a city after him, thereby setting an example for future generations. Indeed, the Midrash relates that Adam learned "the power of repentance" from Cain's actions.

The second Chanoch teaches an opposite lesson: that a person must never be a tzadik (righteous individual) at the expense of involvement in the world. Because the second Chanoch cut himself off from his fellow man rather than exert a positive influence, he passed away before his time.

Furthermore, the two Chanochs reveal how important it is to maintain a proper balance between the two ideals, spiritual improvement and elevation on the one hand, and tikun olam, working within the world to correct it, on the other. A Jew is obligated to do both simultaneously, without veering off to either extreme - a lesson to be learned from the two Biblical Chanochs that applies in every generation.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 35


A Slice of Life

Torah Teed-Up in Oregon

By Steve Hyatt

Eighteen months ago I took up the game of golf for the first time. I wanted some balance in my life and in golf I found a way to get my mind off my work and have some fun at the same time. Since that first exasperating round of 136, my total scores have continued to shrink. Through hard work and practice I had lowered my score to a consistent 105. A round of 100 was clearly within my grasp. It has been said that only 10% of the people who play golf ever break 100. After shooting 105 on several occasions I now firmly believed that I was capable of doing what most golfers never do, shoot a 99!

Recently I received a call from my good friend and co-worker EJ Mitchell and he asked me if I wanted to join him for a round of golf at a local course he had discovered in our hometown of Salem, Oregon. Never one to turn down an invitation to play this humbling game, I gratefully accepted. He picked me up in his green SUV and we drove a few short miles to the course. It was a beautiful summer day in Oregon; cobalt blue sky, 75 degrees, zero percent humidity and majestic green fir trees stood guard on the hills surrounding the course.

As we walked to the first tee I felt great. I was loose and ready to play. I was dressed to the nines; coordinated blue golf shirt and slacks, 1999 University of Connecticut "NCAA Basketball Champions" baseball hat and red argyle socks. I looked and felt like a "golfer."

As I made my way to the first tee I looked down and saw an unbelievable sight. There, lying at my feet was a genuine Taylormade leather 3-wood, head cover! Now those of you who don't play the game are probably scratching your head saying, "yeah, so what?" I'll tell you what! A leather Taylormade 3-wood head cover is quite the little treasure and very expensive to purchase. My first inclination was to say, "All right, today is MY lucky day." I wanted to stealthily stick it into my golf bag and run back to the car. And that's exactly what I was about to do until young Dovi Vogel's bright shining face suddenly appeared before my eyes.

Allow me to digress for a moment. Several years ago I was seated in "my usual" chair at the Vogels' Shabbat table in Delaware, munching on the Rebbitzen's mouth-watering kugel when Rabbi Vogel asked his children to discuss the week's Torah portion of Ki Teitzei. Eight-year old Dovi sat down like a mench and discussed the text in great detail. He carefully explained the rules governing what actions we should take when we find an object that may belong to another person. His articulate discussion of the nuances of the parsha affected me deeply. His words made me reexamine my own belief system and question how I viewed my personal responsibilities in life and dealt with temptations of all kinds.

It continually amazes me how Hashem works. Several years ago I listened to a meaningful discussion between a young boy and his father, a discussion that millions of Jewish parents and children have conducted countless times for thousands of years, and yet I couldn't help feel that this particular discussion was orchestrated specifically for me. When Dovi completed his Dvar Torah he smiled and left the table to chase his brother Avremale around the room.

As I stood at the first tee clutching the "treasure" in my hand, Dovi's Dvar Torah reverberated in my ears. I had a choice to make. I could stuff it in my bag and quietly walk away. No one would ever know I had found it. Or, I could turn it in at the Pro Shop and hope the owner would drop by and ask if anyone had turned it in.

This was a personal moment of truth. Was Torah finally a guiding force in the fabric of my life and an intricate part of my value system or was it something I conveniently pulled out every Shabbat so I'd have something to talk about with my friends at Shul. In the end there was no real conflict. I turned around and walked the fifty yards to the Pro Shop. I walked through the door, stepped up to the counter and turned that brand-new, leather, Taylormade, 3-wood, head cover over to the employee on duty. I told him I had found it by the first tee and the distressed owner would probably stop by later to see if anyone had turned it in.

I walked back to the first tee satisfied that I had done the right thing. I had followed one of Hashem's commandments and made the correct effort to try to return the property to the rightful owner. I know this is selfish but I was overwhelmed with happiness that I had made the right choice. No one else knew. But it didn't matter, because I knew.

As I watched my buddy EJ tee off I couldn't help but smile. Years before, sitting quietly at the Shabbat table, I observed a traditional Torah discussion between a parent and child. Who would have imagined that the child's explanation that evening would influence my actions years later on the first tee of a golf course. I couldn't help but ponder how miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Some involve the parting of the sea of reeds so a chosen people can leave a life of bondage and begin a new life on their way to the Promised Land. And some are as simple as a young boy sharing his thoughts on a parsha of Torah, which would in the years to come illuminate a small part of the world thousands of miles away from his home.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I shot a 96 that day! Coincidence? I think not!

Thanks Dovi.


What's New

WHO'S THAT SLEEPING ON MY SOFABED?

The mitzva of welcoming guests into one's home is a very important concept in Judaism. In this charming picture book, a young child learns to value this important precept and honor a guest of his own in a very special way. Written by Ruby Grossblatt and illustrated by Sarah Kranz. Published by HaChai Publishing.

LIVING WITH MOSHIACH

Living With Moshaich is adapted from talks and writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet. These concise, inspiring and articulate discussions on Moshiach, are arranged according to the weekly and holiday Torah portions. Published by Kehot Publication Society.


The Rebbe Writes

29th of Tishrei, 5734 [1973]

I have been informed of your mishap, with a request for your speedy recovery.

I trust that by the time you receive this letter you will have already made a good recovery, and may G-d grant you a Refuo Shleimo [complete recovery].

Having just entered into the New Year, which brings renewed Mazal and blessing to all Jews, may it indeed be a good and sweet year for you and all our people, in which, and for many years to come, you should inspire your fellow-Jews through the Divine gifts which He has bestowed upon you, with true Jewish inspiration in the spirit of our Torah, Toras Chaim [the Torah of Life], to a deeper meaning in life. All the more so since you are a Kohen, with a great tradition to uphold and perpetuate.

With blessing,

3rd of MarCheshvan, 5731 [1970]

I trust that you had an inspiring month of Tishrei, and that the inspiration of all the festivals at the beginning of the year will be with you throughout the year, and be reflected in a growing dedication and devotion to the Torah and Mitzvos, and in your daily conduct in general.

I was pleased to receive regards from you through the visitors from your country, and trust they have shared with you their experiences here on their return.

Inasmuch as all the festivals of Tishrei conclude on the inspiring note of Simchas Torah, setting the pattern for the rest of the year, may it be so with you throughout the year.

13th of Cheshvan, 5724 [1963]

I received your letter of the 4th of Cheshvan, as well as the previous one. I was gratified to read about the success of your activities, and I trust that this success will encourage you and the others to even greater accomplishments. Especially, as it has been explained, that when one doubles one's efforts, the results are more than doubled, all the more, when there is a Zechus Horabim [the merit of the many].

Please convey my regards and good wishes for success to all your co-workers, and may G-d grant that the success on behalf of others will bring each and every one of you success also in your personal needs.

Especially, as we are now coming from the month of Tishrei, which concludes on the happy note of "Rejoicing with our Torah," and which is the source of good influence for the whole year materially and spiritually.

18th of MarCheshvan, 5731 [1970]

I was pleased to receive your note, as well as regards, through Rabbi Sufrin.

In connection with your writing about your birthday on Isru Chag of Succos, I trust you surely realize that a birthday for a Jew is not just to mark the fact that one is now a year older, but the important thing is to know that one has grown also insofar as the daily conduct is concerned, and has now attained a higher spiritual level, which must be reflected in the knowledge and practice of the Torah and Mitzvos in daily life. And in addition to this being a must for its own sake, this is also the way to receive G-d's blessings in a greater measure.

May G-d grant that you should have good news to report.

With blessing,


Rambam this week

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

28 Tishrei 5760

Positive mitzva 97: defilement through carcasses of certain creeping creatures

By this injunction we are commanded concerning the uncleanness of the eight varieties of creeping things, enumerated in Lev. 11:29-30. These "primary sources" of uncleanliness are the weasel, the mouse, the great lizard, the gecko, the land-crocodile, the lizard, the sand-lizard and the chameleon.


A Word from the Director

The Chabad Rebbes taught that Shabbat Bereishit is a special day that has an influence on the entire year. In fact, a Jew's conduct on Shabbat Bereishit determines his conduct throughout the entire year to come.

Why Shabbat Bereishit? Because the foundation of a Jew's service the whole year long is the perpetual remembrance of "In the beginning G-d created."

G-d created the world from absolute nothingness, and continues to create it every second anew. The miracle of creation wasn't a one-time event, but an ongoing miracle by which each individual creation is constantly being sustained.

The world doesn't exist by virtue of its own right. The only reason it continues to exist is that G-d chooses to recreate it every minute.

A Jew may sometimes feel that keeping Torah and mitzvot is difficult. So many problems and obstacles threaten to hinder his Divine service! But when he reminds himself that "In the beginning G-d created," that G-d is perpetually creating the world and preventing it from falling back into nothingness this very minute, he will come to understand that nothing can deter him from serving the Creator. As every creature receives its vitality directly from G-d, nothing has the power to prevent him from observing G-d's commandments.

When a Jew thinks about "In the beginning G-d created," his personal concerns will soon be forgotten. He will realize that G-d is the one true Source of everything, and that only good can come from Him. And in that way he will merit to receive G-d's blessings in all of his endeavors.


Thoughts that Count

And G-d saw that it was good (Gen. 1:10)

Unlike His other creations, G-d did not pronounce man good immediately after creating him. For man was created with free will, with the power to determine his own actions and define his own character. Accordingly, G-d waits to see which path we choose before pronouncing judgment. (Kli Yakar)

And G-d blessed them, saying, be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas (Gen. 1:22)

On the fifth day of Creation the fish were blessed; on the sixth day man was blessed, and on the seventh day the Shabbat was blessed. The reason it is customary to eat fish on Shabbat is to obtain this three-fold, consecutive blessing, a "woven rope of three strands that is difficult to cut." (Bnei Yissaschar)

And G-d said, let us make man in our image (Gen. 1:26)

One reason the Torah uses the plural "us" is that man is a "compound" creation, containing within him all of the higher and lower elements of the universe. The soul of man embraces all of the higher spheres, while his physical body is made of dust, representing all of the lower realms. (Likutei Levi Yitzchak)

And G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (Gen. 2:3)

The day of Shabbat is intrinsically holy. Nonetheless, the Torah commands us to "Remember the Shabbat day to make it holy" (Ex. 20:8). For when a Jew remembers and observes Shabbat, it enhances its G-d-given sanctity and adds to it. (Sefat Emet)

G-d grants the requests of anyone who delights in the Shabbat, as it states in Psalms (37:4): "Delight in the L-rd, and He will give you your heart's desires." (The Talmud, Shabbat 118a)


It Once Happened

During the time of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad (known as the Alter Rebbe), a group of his chasidim in a certain town were being severely oppressed by the misnagdim (opponents of the Chasidic movement) there. Some of the chassidim were even arrested, due to the slander and false accusations presented to the local authorities. G-d was merciful, however, and the innocent victims were released. They immediately sat down together to write a letter to the Rebbe, informing him of the good news of their deliverance.

Among this group was a poor tinsmith named Shimon, who was only average in knowledge and understanding, but was strongly bonded to the Rebbe with love and dedication. He was often heard to spontaneously cry out, "Oy Rebbe!" This Shimon took it upon himself to arrange the delivery of the letter to the Rebbe. Instead of sending it by regular mail, he decided to hire a private messenger in order that their letter get to the Rebbe "express," absolutely as soon as possible. He arranged to pay for the extra costs out of his own pocket.

In those days, every Chabad-Chasidic community had its own council, which would direct all chassidic matters. The council members were all well-acquainted with the dire economic situation of R. Shimon how he sometimes had to trek from village to village to find more work, how he barely managed to support his family at the most minimal level, how his wife and children were sick. When he said he intended to pay the expensive fees for the express messenger out of his own meager funds, they refused to hear of it. They told him he shouldn't do it.

R. Shimon, however, refused to accept their decision. He said that the good news of their release would give the Rebbe relief and happiness, and if such news could reach the Rebbe even just one hour earlier, it was worth more to him then all the wealth in the world.

As part of the council, one chassidic elder in each community was responsible for matters of education and guidance, and he would report on a regular basis directly to the Alter Rebbe. When the matter of the messenger was brought before the elder chassid in this position in R. Shimon's town, who also oversaw the fundraising campaigns for the Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess fund [to support the Chasidic commuinity in the holy land] and for maimad [to support the Rebbe's household], he counteracted the council and endorsed the tinsmith's choice.

Eventually, the report of what R. Shimon had done became known to the Maharil ztz'l (Rabbi Yehuda Leib, brother of Rabbi Shneur Zalman and a tzadik in his own right), who had been appointed by the Rebbe to be the overall supervisor in Chabad communal matters of tzedaka.

After some time had passed, one of the leading Chasidim, Rabbi Yaakov of Semillian, arrived in the town as an emissary of the Rebbe. He had been sent to collect the money for the above-mentioned campaigns from all the chasidic communities in that area of Russia. Much to the astonishment of the chasidim who had all gathered to meet with R. Yaakov, he delivered a letter to R. Shimon the tinsmith written entirely in the personal handwriting of the Alter Rebbe himself. In it the Rebbe thanked him for arranging a special messenger to deliver the good tidings of the release speedily. The Rebbe concluded by blessing R. Shimon that G-d Al-mighty should bless him to be always a bearer of good news.

Not long after that, R. Shimon's situation started to improve. His wife and children became healthy, and he himself began to prosper greatly. The Rebbe's blessing was fulfilled. Because R. Shimon the tinsmith exherted himself to make another Jew happy, and especially a great tzadik, and at great personal sacrifice, he merited to become a bearer of happy news: of himself and his family, and of the chassidic brotherhood of his town.

Translated and retold by Yrachmiel Tilles for the Ascent magazine, a publication of Ascent, Safed Israel. Check out their website at www.ascent.org.il


Moshiach Matters

Even before the world was created, G-d created the soul of Moshiach. It shone very brightly, and is hinted to in the verse, "And G-d saw the light, that it was good." The forces of evil also saw this light, and asked G-d, "Whose light is this?" G-d answered, "This is the king who will defeat all of you in the End of Days." (Yalkut Shimoni on Isaiah)


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