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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   588: Bereshit

589: Noach

590: Lech-Lecha

591: Vayera

592: Chayei Sara

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Shemos Exodus

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Bamidbar Numbers

Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
October 22, 1999 - 12 Cheshvan, 5760

590: Lech-Lecha

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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.


  589: Noach591: Vayera  

From A New Perspective  |  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

From A New Perspective

You buy a brand new car. Each time before you go for a drive, you carefully make a 360 degree circuit around the car to ascertain that there are no scratches or dents. When you arrive at your destination, you leave your new car in a lone spot, far from the other cars parked like sardines. In this way, no laissez-faire motorist will unthinkingly swing his door open into your car.

***

The baby starts to crawl. Suddenly, a speck on the carpet is no longer innocuous; it might be daintily picked up by the baby and happily popped into her mouth. Loose change becomes a potential enemy when it rolls out of your pocket. You get down on your hands and knees, or perhaps even lower, to peer around from a kids-eye-view, scanning the terrain for anything that the horizontally mobile baby might go for.

***

Isn't it interesting how the slightest change in circumstances can alter your whole perspective on how you see your surroundings?

This insight answers a frequently asked question about the coming of Moshiach, whose arrival we await every day. How is it possible that the material world will remain unchanged with all its natural laws and characteristics, and yet, at the same time, we will have a heightened sensitivity to spirituality and be able to perceive the G-dliness in all of creation?

Our examples above can help us understand the answer to this question. The world will remain the same world. It is our perspective which will change. Our new consciousness of and sensitivity to the good and G-dly within ourselves and all of creation will allow us to be aware of and appreciate things we did not even notice before.

Another example, and this one from a wholly positive viewpoint: You are on vacation and are touring ancient historical sites. You are impressed by the thought that you are seeing something which has been around for hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of years. You ask your tour guide questions. Back in your hotel room you read a history book you picked up that has a detailed account written by an eyewitness to an event which actually occurred in that place. You visit the site a second time. But this time, your new perspective literally opens your eyes to an appreciation you could not have imagined before.

And so it will be with the Redemption. Our new-found appreciation of G-dliness and G-d's world will open our eyes and enable us to have a completely different perspective on the world and its real meaning.

The Rebbe tells us that we don't have to wait. By learning more Torah in general, and more about Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption in particular, we can open our eyes now and enjoy the inherent harmony and G-dliness of the world in anticipation of Moshiach's arrival.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, deals entirely with Abraham, the very first Jew. In Ethics of the Fathers, Abraham is referred to as one of G-d's five special "possessions": "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, acquired five possessions in His world. These are the Torah, one possession; heaven and earth, one possession; Abraham, one possession; Israel, one possession; and the Holy Temple, one possession."

G-d created the world, so the whole universe obviously belongs to Him. Why, then, are these five "possessions" singled out? Furthermore, if the entire people of Israel is already a possession, why is Abraham regarded separately?

The explanation lies in the exact wording of the Mishna, which states that G-d acquired these possessions "in His world," not "in the world." G-d "owns" all of creation, but in some creations this ownership is more apparent than in others. The five possessions listed in the Mishna were chosen because they most openly demonstrate G-d's ownership. Let's look at each of them individually:

The Torah, even as it is enclothed in physical terms we can relate to, is obviously G-d's wisdom and will. The Jewish people, whose souls are "a veritable part of G-d Above," testify to G-d's presence in the world by revealing holiness. Similarly, the Holy Temple functioned as a dwelling place for the Divine Presence. From Jerusalem, the Temple's light spread out to illuminate the entire world.

Heaven and earth reveal G-dliness because of their quality of everlastingness. Most creations are visibly affected by the passage of time, but the stars and planets appear immutable and unchanging. The earth, too, reminds us of G-d because of its latent powers of germination and growth.

Finally, our Patriarch Abraham is worthy of inclusion on this list because his entire life was devoted to teaching people about G-d. All Jews are G-d's possessions by virtue of their soul, but Abraham's sole raison d'etre was to make G-d's Name known wherever he went.

Abraham is especially noteworthy because he lived before the giving of the Torah. Nonetheless, he succeeded in fostering belief in G-d in his fellow man, despite tremendous obstacles. Not only did Abraham remain uninfluenced by the prevailing idolatry of his era, he was able to persuade others to worship G-d and to serve Him.

Abraham is thus regarded as a "possession" in his own right, or as G-d told him, "I consider you My partner in the world's creation." Furthermore, as a descendant of Abraham, every Jew inherits this ability to withstand opposing forces and reveal G-dliness and holiness in his surroundings.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 35


A Slice of Life

Panning for Gold

by Chaim Wilson

[Ed.'s note: Last week's issue of L'Chaim contained Esti Wilson's story, "We Were the Searching Souls," of her journey and that of her husband to Torah Judaism. As a side-bar to that article in the N'Shei Newsletter where it was originally published, were these thoughts from Chaim.]

I feel like a California forty-niner gold miner. These men were living normal lives in 1849, then they got excited about finding gold. They headed west, enduring many hardships on their way to California, where gold was hidden under many layers of dirt and gravel. They used different kinds of tools to pick, dig, and sift for gold. Every once in a while, they would discover a small glimmer of gold which would then spur them on to dig and sift for more. The work was arduous and time consuming. But when they did strike gold, there was nothing better in the world. Yet, finding gold did not make them complacent - they went right back to sifting through the mud and dirt in order to find it once again.

That's me, a California forty-niner, only a Jewish one. The thing that first got the gleam in my eye and the desire to begin a journey towards becoming a Jew was marrying Esti. I had an innate feeling that there was gold somewhere...I could sniff it but I certainly couldn't define it. And so my journey began. I endured many difficulties in pinpointing that feeling of gold. It was hard for me to simply put a frame around what "it" was. How to get started, where to start, and simple things such as trying to understand which questions to ask all seemed mind boggling and very difficult. All of these obstacles were in place even before I began panning for gold. But on my journey, I began to see little tiny sparkles of gold. Those sparkles included our Chabad Rabbi, our shul, Shabbatot spent with other observant Jews, lectures, books and our children. Those pebbles started turning into rocks. We were beginning to feel the presence of Hashem in our home. Finally, I knew exactly what the gold was - it was Torah Judaism, and I wanted to be part of it. That's when I decided to convert.

Today, I am still mining. I find that the excitement of the promising boulders already found and the prospect of hitting real gold keeps me moving forward. The gold is often hidden from me because of the many outside influences in my life, including my job. Life goes on, and the mining continues. I continue to hope for the gold at the end of the rainbow. I continue to expose the gold, as I dig through the gravel using the tools of a Jewish miner: Tanya [the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy], Talmud and Chumash [the Five Books of Moses].

Most analogies are not perfect, particularly when they pertain to life-changing events such as this one. The imperfection in this analogy lies in the fact that in my quest for the gold, the mining in itself is very rewarding and fulfilling. I suppose that is why I am so drawn to Chasidut. Chasidut offers a mining approach that is encouraging, rewarding, and joyful. The mining contains its own rewards.

I'll always be a miner. When Moshiach comes, it will be different. But for now, I continue to occasionally see the gleam and locate that piece of ore. Then the pebbles and the mud cover it up again and I begin my search once more.


What's New

BAR MITZVA ANTHOLOGY

Yalkut Bar Mitzva: An Anthology of Laws and Customs of a Bar Mitzva in the Chabad Tradition by Rabbi Nissan Dubov is a recent release from Sichos In English. It includes the significance of a Bar Mitzva, customs, preparations, letters from the Rebbe concerning Bar Mitzva, as well as stories about the Bar Mitzvas of the Chabad Rebbes. ( Available online at: www.chabad.org/books/bar-mitzvah/ )

CHANOCH LANAAR

Chanoch Lanaar is the ethical will of Rabbi Shalom Dovber Schneersohn, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe. It was addressed to his wife, Rebbetzin Shterna Sara. Most of the ethical will is devoted to the subject and importance of education. Discipline, self-restraint, prayer and the concept of mazal are also explored at length. Chanoch Lanaar gives the reader a thoughtful perspective on every aspect of education.

CHABAD LIBRARY CD

A vast compendium of the Kehot Publication Society's library of Chabad Chasidic texts is now available on compact disc. A multi-functional, powerful search engine and user-friendly menu make this an effective learning tool. The CD requires a PC with Windows 95 or higher and 16 MB RAM. The Chabad Library CD contains works by all of the Chabad Rebbes, including Shulchan Aruch Admor HaZaken, Tanya, Torah Ohr, Likutei Torah, Tzemach Tzedek, and 24 volumes of the Rebbe's Igrot Kodesh. Bonus titles are the complete Tanach, Talmud Bavli, Zohar and Shulchan Aruch. The texts are in Hebrew only.

TO LOVE A FELLOW JEW

To Love A Fellow Jew: shows how Chasidic thought illuminates the seemingly simple obligation of loving another Jew. The Chasidic teachings in this work, by Rabbi Nissan Dubov, enable imperfect individuals to develop the ability to love other imperfect individuals, even to love "unlovable" people. Published by Sichos In English. ( Available online at: www.chabad.org/books/ahavas-yisroel/ )


The Rebbe Writes

2nd of Marcheshvan, 5725 [1964]

Blessing and Greeting:

I was pleased to receive your letter of the 26th of Tishrei, containing a report of the activities with the girls' groups, as well as N'shei Chabad, and the Camp, all of which I read with much interest.

May G-d grant that the attainments of the past should stimulate an increased activity and even greater results in the future, exceeding by far the plans and expectations.

As we are now reading in the Torah about Avrohom Ovinu, it is well to remember the lesson which, our Sages say, we have to learn from Abraham, namely that his actions always exceeded his words, and he always did a great deal more than he promised. It befits us, who are called the children of Abraham, to follow in his footsteps.

May G-d grant you and all your coworkers the utmost success.

With blessing,

Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, 5732 [1971]

To the Participants in the Testimonial Banquet

honoring Rabbi Dr. Moshe Yitzchok Hecht

New Haven, Conn.

Greeting and Blessing:

I am very pleased to be informed about the forthcoming Testimonial Banquet in honor of Rabbi Hecht's twenty-five years of dedicated service to the greater New Haven community.

The occasion is a fitting testimony to the personal achievements of the recipient of this honor. It also shows that he is fortunate in having Baalei-batim who appreciate his services to the community. Furthermore, and this is the most essential aspect, the occasion reflects recognition of the vital importance of Jewish education, the field in which Rabbi Hecht has particularly distinguished himself and made his greatest contribution.

All this gives me the confident expectation that the event will serve as a further stimulus to the cause of Chinuch [Jewish education], where there is of course still much more to be done. For, as long as there is a Jewish boy or girl who does not yet receive a Torah-true education, the obligation of the community cannot be considered fully done.

On the other hand, we live in a situation which is especially conducive to Chinuch. Parents are more keenly aware of the compelling need of Chinuch in the present days of confusion and misguided values. As for Jewish children and youth, they are always receptive to the Torah and Mitzvos. This has again confirmed the truth of the Torah and of the Lubavitch approach, namely, that the Torah and Mitzvos are part of the Jewish essence, and that it is only necessary to help a Jew bring this essence to the fore and rediscover himself. And having been brought into the experience of Torah and Mitzvos, they are happy and grateful, and proceed to go from strength to strength on their own accord, and help others, in the manner of a chain reaction.

It is customary to make a reference to the Torah portion of the week, in which any event takes place. It is, therefore, significant that the weekly portion Lech-lecho begins with G-d's call to Abraham to leave his land and birthplace, etc., in order to begin a new life in the Promised Land.

Symbolically speaking, this is also the call and challenge to every Jew, at all times and in all places. It is the eternal call to the Jew not to allow himself to be swept by the outside environment, nor to be swayed by inborn temptations, or acquired habits, or common daily routine. A Jew must rise above all this and follow the Divine call to go "To the land which I (G-d) will show you" - the Jewish way of life, which G-d prescribed for Abraham, the first Jew and for our Jewish people as a whole at Mt. Sinai. Moreover, G-d promises that this way of life, far from being impossible, as some mistakenly think, is within reach of every Jew and it is the source of blessing for himself and the society in which he lives, as G-d further promised, "And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you."

I send my prayerful wishes that the enthusiasm and dedication of all participants in this Banquet will inspire also others to a concerted and ever-growing effort on behalf of Torah-true education, both for the young as well as for the old who are still young in Jewish knowledge and experience. May G-d bless you with Hatzlocho and true Nachas from your children, and fulfill your hearts' desires for good materially and spiritually.


Rambam this week

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

13 Cheshvan 5760

Positive mitzva 101: the leper

By this injunction (Lev. 12:2-5) we are commanded concerning the uncleanness of a leper. [Biblical leprosy was a spiritual malady with physical manifestations unrelated to the modern illness.] It includes all regulations: which cases are clean and which unclean, which require segregation, shaving, etc.


A Word from the Director

The Talmud is replete with references to the great feast G-d will hold for the righteous when Moshiach comes. All the tzadikim from throughout the ages will attend this celebration, to partake of three special foods: leviathan, "wild bull," and "preserved wine."

Every element of this feast is deeply symbolic and spiritually significant. At the same time, our Sages stressed that it will be an actual, physical feast with real food, albeit of an unusual kind.

The leviathan was a huge sea beast of which only two were ever created. The female was "salted and preserved for the righteous to eat in the future." Similarly, G-d created only two "wild bulls," the female of which was preserved and put away for this Messianic feast. The "preserved wine" is also not your usual fruit of the vine, but something "that has never been seen by the eye."

Chasidut explains that the Messianic feast of leviathan, "wild ox" and "preserved wine" represents the sum total of Divine service by the Jewish people during the exile. The levia-than, which lived in the sea, symbolizes the higher spiritual worlds that are hidden within the infinity of Divine revelation. The "wild bull," a land creature, symbolizes the physical plane. The service of the Jewish people is to effect a change in the higher worlds through mitzva observance down below, which purifies and refines physical reality.

The Final Redemption will occur when this dual process will have been completed. Partaking of the leviathan and "wild bull" thus represents the culmination and fulfillment of G-d's plan for the world.

After the meal, a cup of "preserved wine" will be passed from tzadik to tzadik, until King David agrees to make the blessing. This wine, which "has never been seen by the eye," alludes to the never-before-revealed secrets of Torah that Moshiach will teach in the Messianic era.

May it happen immediately.


Thoughts that Count

And the L-rd said to Abram, go out from your country, and from your family, and from your father's house (Gen. 12:1)

The command to "go out" of one's natural inclinations and become spiritually elevated is directed toward every person individually. No one is required to do more than he is able; at the same time, each person is expected to achieve all that he is capable of. G-d doesn't require Reb Zushe to be a Baal Shem Tov. He does, however, expect him to be a Reb Zushe. (Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli)

To a land that I will show you (Gen. 12:1)

On a spiritual level, the "land that I will show you" refers to the revelation of G-dliness that comes as a reward for Divine service. This service of "going out" consists of connecting the soul as it is invested in the physical body with its spiritual source above, which can actually "see" G-dliness. When the lower soul and its higher source are connected, the soul within the body benefits from this vision. (Ohr Hatorah)

And when Abram was ninety-nine years old the L-rd appeared to Abram (Gen. 17:1)

Our forefather Abraham fulfilled all of the Torah's laws even before it was given. Why, then, did he not circumcise himself until he received an explicit command from G-d? The answer is that before then, circumcision was forbidden, as the Torah prohibits the shedding of blood. The mitzva of mila overrode this prohibition. (The Rebbe)

My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant (Gen. 17:13)

Whenever a Jew does a mitzva it connects him to G-d, but the bond it creates is not visible to the eyes of flesh. There is, however, one exception: the mitzva of mila. With this mitzva, the Jew's connection to G-d becomes manifest even to the nations of the world. (Likutei Sichot)


It Once Happened

Yaakov was a clever young man, a genius, who lived in a small village in White Russia. He studied Torah assiduously, and indeed, amassed a huge body of knowledge. In the same village lived several Lubavitcher Chasidim, who had long been trying to convince the talented lad to come with them to the Rebbe.

But Yaakov, who was not raised in a Chasidic home, was not interested. "I don't need a Rebbe," he would answer them. "If I come across a problem in the Talmud, I just keep studying till I solve it myself."

Nonetheless, one time his curiosity got the better of him, and he accompanied the Chasidim to the Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber (known as the Rebbe Rashab). They arrived in Lubavitch on a Friday. That Shabbat, Yaakov found himself in an unprecedented state of spiritual elevation. The general atmosphere of the town was rubbing off on him.

After Shabbat, as they prepared to leave, Yaakov wrote a short note to give to the Rebbe, as was customary. He trembled as he waited his turn for a private audience. When Yaakov entered the Rebbe's chamber he found the Rebbe sitting and studying a book. The Rebbe did not lift his eyes to look at him. Yaakov tiptoed over to the desk and placed his note on it. The Rebbe gave no sign that Yaakov was even in the room.

Suddenly the Rebbe stood up and paced back and forth. As if talking to himself, he began to speak in Russian: "On! Nyet on!" ("It is him! It's not him!") On! Nyet on! On! Nyet on..." The Rebbe paused for a long while before uttering his final pronouncement: "Nyet on!" He then sat down and resumed his study.

Yaakov left the Rebbe's chamber confused and puzzled. Not only had the Rebbe ignored him, but his strange words kept reverberating in his head. Yaakov did not know what to make of it.

One day Yaakov was reading the newspaper when he noticed a contest being sponsored by the University of Petersburg. Whoever solved the mathematical problem printed in the paper would win a prize of 300 rubles. Yaakov saw the contest as a personal challenge. He studied the problem and sent off his answer by mail. A short time later a letter arrived from the University informing him that he had won. Enclosed with the letter was a personal invitation from the head of the mathematics department, and a train ticket.

Yaakov traveled to Petersburg. The professors were initially surprised by Yaakov's traditional Jewish attire, but quickly discovered his rare genius. After awarding him the monetary prize, they offered him a full scholarship to the University, which Yaakov accepted.

In the beginning Yaakov maintained his distinctive dress and customs, and even learned a little Torah. But the more he progressed academically and socially at the University, the further away from Judaism he wandered. The external trappings were the first to go; eventually Yaakov completely abandoned the path of Torah and mitzvot.

A few years later Yaakov was appointed as a full professor. Of course, beforehand, Yaakov had to renounce his Judaism. But he didn't blink an eye as he furthered his academic career.

As time passed, however, Yaakov's conscience began to bother him. Although he deeply regretted his actions, he found himself unable to take practical steps to rectify the situation. In those days, a gentile who converted to Judaism or a Jew who accepted Christianity but later rescinded were subject to the death penalty.

By that time Yaakov had become an accomplished hunter; the sport served to divert his attention from his frequent pangs of conscience. One day while out in the field, Yaakov's horse began to gallop uncontrollably. The reins were useless, and it was clear that barring a miracle, these were the last seconds of Yaakov's life. At that moment Yaakov resolved to repent and return to G-d. Incredibly, the horse stopped galloping and came to a halt.

That night Yaakov packed a small bundle and snuck out of the house, leaving his non-Jewish life behind him for good. He wandered from city to city and from town to town, terrified of being discovered. His return to Judaism had endangered his very life, but his resolve to live as a Jew was unwavering.

One day, while Yaakov was dining at an inn in a remote village, the police burst in and began to check the patrons' identity papers. Yaakov, who was not carrying any identification, was taken into custody.

The investigator at the police station kept scrutinizing the photograph in his hand, then glancing up at Yaakov. From the corner of his eye Yaakov saw that it was a picture of himself as he used to look at the University: clean-shaven, nattily attired, and with a carefully coifed lock of hair on his forehead.

The investigator was clearly hesitant. Unable to decide he began to mutter under his breath. "On!" ("It is him!") A second later he changed his mind. "Nyet on!" ("It's not him!") "On!" "Nyet on!" Back and forth he went, studying the photograph and Yaakov in turn. "Nyet on!" he ultimately concluded, and ordered that Yaakov be freed.

Yaakov left the police station flabbergasted; he knew where he had last heard those very words. Immediately he set off for Lubavitch, and remained there for the rest of his life.


Moshiach Matters

The land of Sodom was very beautiful. But the people who lived there not only did not care for their physical surroundings, but also did not care about other people. The Sodomites were so wicked that they have no portion in the World to Come. However, when the Redemption comes and the Jewish people return to the land of Israel, Sodom will return to its original state of blessing and beauty, as the prophet Ezekiel said, "Sodom will return to the way it was... and you will return to the way you were." (From Discover Moshiach by Bais Chaya Mushka Seminary-Canada)


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