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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   588: Bereshit

589: Noach

590: Lech-Lecha

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593: Toldot

594: Vayetzei

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
November 19, 1999 - 10 Kislev, 5760

594: Vayetzei

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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.


  593: Toldot595: Vayishlach  

The School Kids  |  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

The School Kids

Over the years, there has been much talk and research and study in the international Jewish community as to what can be done to inspire Jewish kids to grow up to be committed, active, involved Jewish adults.

One simple line from the Talmud (Shabbat 119b) really says it all: "We do not disrupt the Torah learning of school children even for the building of the [Third] Holy Temple."

Much has been written about the centrality in Judaism of the belief in Moshiach and the Redemption of the world. Our prayers, meant to express our most intimate and profound feelings and give voice to our heartfelt pleas to G-d, contain dozens of references to Moshiach. In fact, Moshiach and related concepts, such as the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, is mentioned about 60 times in the daily prayers. In the course of a year, one who prays the three daily prayers speaks of Moshiach and the Redemption over 20,000 times!

Despite or perhaps because of the importance of Moshiach and the Redemption, we do not disturb the Torah study of children even for the building of the Holy Temple. In fact, so important is it for Jewish children to receive a Torah education that our Sages say that Jerusalem and the Holy Temple were destroyed only because the Torah education of children was neglected! As proof, the Talmud brings the words of the prophet Jeremiah, "Pour it out [G-d's wrath] because of the children in the street." Why, the Talmud explains, did G-d pour out His wrath? Because the children were in the streets, as no Torah institutions had been organized for them.

The Talmud also states that "The world endures only for the sake of the breath of school children." A discussion between two Sages as to whether it is more accurate to say that the world exists because of the breath (as they study the words of Torah) of the children or of the learned and righteous Sages themselves concludes that it is because of the children.

So what are we all waiting for? If we have children and are not yet providing them with a solid Jewish education, let's do it. If our children are already receiving a Jewish education, certainly things can be done to enhance or intensify it. If we don't have school-age children, then we should be doing everything we can to make sure that the children are not "in the streets."

If we do our part, the children will do their part and G-d will certainly do His part and bring about the era of peace, G-dliness, knowledge and goodness which will mark the Redemption.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah reading, Vayeitzei, opens with Jacob's journey to Charan: "And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Charan." A logical question is asked: Why is it necessary for us to know where Jacob came from? Why doesn't the Torah just inform us that his destination was Charan?

Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, gives us an explanation based on the Midrash: "This teaches that the departure of a righteous person from any place makes an impression. During the time that the righteous person is in a city, he constitutes its glory, he is its splendor, he is its crown. When he departs, there departs its glory, there departs its splendor, there departs its crown."

This explanation is somewhat surprising, for when Jacob left Beersheba, his parents, Isaac and Rebecca, both of whom were certainly righteous, were still living there. How, then, could Rashi claim that with Jacob's leaving, Beersheba's "glory," "splendor" and "crown" also departed?

The answer is revealed by taking a closer look at Rashi's explanation, which is not an exact quote from the Midrash. The Midrash states that a righteous person constitutes a city's "splendor" and "crown." Rashi, however, prefaces his comments with the word "glory."

According to Rashi, there are three elements to the righteous person's influence on his surroundings: 1) "crown," in the sense of honor and respect; 2) "splendor," the spiritual light that emanates from the righteous person and his deeds; and 3) "glory," an even higher level of illumination emanating from the righteous person that induces awe.

As previously mentioned, even after Jacob left Beersheba there were still two righteous people living there, Isaac and Rebecca. But by that time Isaac was very old and blind, and mostly confined to his house. Rebecca, too, was getting on in years, and occupied with caring for her husband. There is no doubt that their continued presence in Beersheba brought honor to the city and protected its inhabitants. By then, however, Isaac and Rebecca could no longer illuminate their surroundings with the kind of light that induces awe and fear. This level of light, "glory," emanated from their son, Jacob. Thus when Jacob left Beersheba, its "glory" also departed.

In addition to its literal meaning, Jacob's journey from Beersheba to Charan alludes to the soul's descent from the spiritual into the physical world, which also "makes an impression." In fact, the soul demonstrates great self-sacrifice by being invested in a physical body.

In the merit of this self-sacrifice, every Jew deserves to be restored to his true state of basking in G-d's light, with the full and complete Redemption with Moshiach.

Adapted from Likutei Torah, Vol. 32


A Slice of Life

REACHING OUT

At a public gathering nearly 25 years ago, the Rebbe spoke about the tragic plight of the Jew in prison and the difficulty facing him or her in trying to keep a connection to Judaism. Lubavitcher Chasidim around the world responded both individually and by establishing organizations to aid Jewish inmates. The Lubavitch Youth Organization's highly successful prison program publishes Reaching Out: An Educational Bulletin for Jewish Prisoners. The following are letters from Jewish inmates to L.Y.O. in response to the assistance they received. Many were addressed to Rabbi Shmuel Spritzer, who volunteers dozens of hours each week to personally respond to every inmate's letter.

I just wanted to write to you at this time to express my sincere thanks for sending me that siddur [prayerbook], along with your usual kind and heartfelt thoughts. It's nice to know that, although I am a minority in prison (being Jewish), there are still people (on the outside) such as yourself who I can always rely on for much needed support. This makes "my stay" in prison that much easier.

In addition, I also enjoyed reading the issue of Reaching Out very much, and look forward to receiving next month's issue from you very soon.

I also want to let you know that on Tuesday, three members from the Lubavitch community came all the way up here from Brooklyn to visit during our weekly Jewish services here. They brought appetizing food and we sang songs. It felt so good to have "a taste of home" in person, and I truly enjoyed it very much. I look forward to their next visit.

Once again, Rabbi Spritzer, I want to thank you very much for your continued correspondence with me. It really means a lot during this most unfortunate time of my life.

Respectfully yours,

Gary - Rome, NY

I must say that I agree with you about the power of Tehilim [Psalms]! I have been much calmer and able to deal with my surroundings since I started adding Tehilim to my routine. I am a lot more at peace.

It has also brought an interesting addition to my life as well. I spoke with my Lubavitch Rabbi in Hawaii and guess what? He is willing to take me in when I become eligible for parole! He also says he will be willing to donate the other half price for a pair of tefilin!

Your tip on cleaning the tzitzit [fringes] is working well. I am hand washing it in the sink. The local office of Jewish Prisoner Services International is sending me additional chapters of Lessons in Tanya. I read daily the chapters I already have.

So much good has happened since you sent me the Tehilim. It is remarkable. I thank you in advance for the Talit. I am looking forward to receiving it.

The 11th of Tammuz will be my last issue of Beis Moshiach, but I will be ordering it on my release. It is great. Thank you for introducing it to me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Simcha - Watonga, OK

I would like to apologize for not writing after you sent me the wonderful gift, the Tehilim. It was during a lock down in prison that Rabbi Denenbeim [Chabad emissary in Palm Springs], our chaplain, brought it to me. It seems that at first, the prison didn't allow it in, as it is hard bound. But the Rabbi arranged it for me. And with the lock down that lasted nine days, it really was used. So thank you so much. I use it now daily, reading at least the two chapters that you suggested, and I find that it is not only refreshing, but the Tehilim brings an "inner peace" when at times the world around us seems to be in such turmoil.

May G-d bless you and keep you healthy and well.

White - Blythe, CA

I am a practicing Jewish inmate housed at this Federal Institution. A few weeks ago we had the honor of two of your student rabbis visiting our facility. These student rabbis were very concerned for our Jewish heritage and their visit was spiritually moving.

I seldom use tefilin and was instructed by them how to use it in the proper way. I feel that by following their advice and instructions I will get closer to G-d.

Thank you for sending them to help us for spiritual guidance. Please add my name to your mailing list to receive your beautiful publication, Reaching Out. I found the publication an excellent teacher of Torah.

Keith - Petersburg, VA

I am not a young man in age, but I do enjoy and learn a lot of good information from the Reaching Out newsletter. So I would very much like to receive it often. I also treasure with the deepest part of my soul the teachings of the Rebbe. The Rebbe has made a great impact on my life since I have been in prison; I have used this time to reflect on the Rebbe's teachings and have started to daven with tefilin every morning. I have started to pray three times daily with my sidur, and have started to perform all the mitzvot I can.

I am not a young person and due to the alcohol, drugs, and the Vietnam War experience, I cannot absorb too much learning at one time. I have to go slow and repeat my learning over and over till I get it in my mind forever, especially when I have to teach myself to do all this on my own. I pray every day for a G-d-sent teacher even if it is my mail, to help me learn from step one on up, step by step. I already have the Tanya and various prayerbooks, including a prayerbook in keeping with my parents' traditions.

Well I have to go now, but G-d willing I will keep in touch.

Luis - Immokalee, Fl


What's New

SHABBAT DISCOVERY

A Shabbat Discovery Weekend sponsored by the Lubavitch Youth Organization will take place Nov. 19-21 in Crown Heights, New York. Featuring Rabbi Laibl Wolf, director of the Human Development Institute in Australia and scholar and artist Shimona Tzukernik, the weekend is devoted to learning meditational techniques that will draw on the tremendous power inherent in the Jewish soul. For more info call 718-953-1000.

EXPANDING ON EAST SIDE

Rabbi Boruch Jacobson is the new community activity director for Chabad of the Upper East Side (New York City). He will serve students at Hunter College and is in charge of the Chaplaincy and Hospital Visitation program.


The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5736 [1976]

I just received your telegram about your daughter's marriage taking place today.

I hope and trust that the Bride and Bridegroom have made a firm resolution to establish their home on the foundations of the Torah and Mitzvos, which will also bring them an additional measure of Divine blessings for a truly happy future.

I extend to you and to Mrs. -, as well as to the newlyweds, prayerful wishes of Mazal Tov, and may you and your wife have true Nachas from each and all your children, in good health, good Parnosso [livelihood] and a happy frame of mind.

With the blessing of Mazal Tov, Mazal Tov,

[date unavailable]

... A Jewish marriage is called Binyan Adei Ad - an "everlasting edifice." In order that the edifice of marriage should indeed be strong and lasting, everything connected with the wedding, as well as with the establishment of the couple's home, should be in full compliance with the instructions of Torah. For our Torah is called Toras Chaim, the Torah of Life; it is the source of everlasting life in the Hereafter, as well as the true guide to life on earth.

The analogy of a marriage to an "everlasting edifice" is not merely a figure of speech, but contains also an important idea and moral. In the case of any structure, the first and most important step is to ensure the quality and durability of the foundation. Without such a foundation all the efforts put into the walls, roof, decorations and so on, would be of no avail. This is even more true of the structure of marriage; if its foundation should be unstable, what tragedy could result! This is why a Jewish marriage must, first of all, be based on the rock-solid foundation of the Torah and Mitzvos; then follows the blessing of the joy and happiness of the beloved couple for the rest of their lives.

In every matter concerning the observance of Torah we follow the principle that "all Jews are responsible for one another." Not only are we to practice the Mitzvos ourselves, but we should also interest and assist others in their observance. In view of this it is clear that there is a standing obligation upon everyone to help a bride and groom establish an "everlasting edifice."

We should show them how and why to maintain a kosher kitchen in their new home. We should introduce them to the beauty of Shabbos, and show them how the laws and regulations of Taharas HaMishpacha ("family purity," involving immersion in a Mikva, etc.) bring sanctity to marital relations. Let no one think it is a matter of the young couple's own personal life, in which no one has a right to interfere. Such a viewpoint is totally unjustified. Surely when one sees someone bent on harming herself or himself and their children or - worse still - about to do something which might lead to self-destruction, G-d forbid, no one would consider it "interference" or "encroachment" to try and prevent that person from harming himself. Similarly, when there is an opportunity to help someone with a lasting benefit, it is surely an elementary duty to do so - especially where the benefit is a truly everlasting one.


Rambam this week

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

10 Kislev 5760

Positive mitzva 225: the law of manslaughter

By this injunction we are commanded to banish an unintentional homicide from his own city to one of the designated cities of refuge. It is contained in the Torah's words (Num. 35:25): "The congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled; and he shall dwell there until the death of the high priest."


A Word from the Director

This coming week, Tuesday, marks the wedding anniversary of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin.

Our Sages taught of the importance of "Shalom Bayit" - peace and harmony in one's marriage. Thus, we are enjoined to be of the disciples of Aaron, for he loved peace and pursued peace, bringing peace between two friends and between husband and wife.

In the Rebbe's personal correspondence, the greatness of Shalom Bayit is emphasized, as well as practical advice on how to achieve a peaceful, harmonious relationship.

In one letter, the Rebbe writes that the Torah teaches, and Chasidut emphasizes, that a person is created with a right eye and a left eye. The right eye teaches that one must always look at another Jew (and obviously and most importantly, one's spouse) with a good eye, to see what is best and nicest in him/her, etc.

In another letter, the Rebbe reminds the person of the adage that "charity begins at home." The Rebbe was referring to his newly initiated (at that time) campaign of Ahavat Yisrael - loving one's fellow Jew and that the person should make sure to implement this "campaign" at home with his spouse.

The Rebbe suggests, in another letter, that the couple take a "second honeymoon" which would rectify the entire situation.

In many of the letters, the Rebbe reminds the recipients of the importance of conducting their lives in general and the relationship of the husband and wife in particular, in accordance with the Torah and mitzvot as they affect the daily life.

May we very soon merit the ultimate Shalom Bayit at the complete reunion of G-d (the husband) and the Jewish people (the wife) with the revelation of Moshiach, NOW!


Thoughts that Count

And he dreamed, and there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven (Gen. 28:12)

Jacob's ladder is symbolic of prayer, the purpose of which is to connect the upper and lower realms (the higher celestial spheres with the lower material plane). Moreover, prayer is a two-way street, elevating a person's corporeal nature while at the same time drawing spirituality down to earth. (Likutei Diburim)

It is said that, metaphorically, the angels "polish up" our prayers, removing dust and washing off any dirt that sullies them. What does this mean? "Removing dust" means that they inject vitality and life into words that were uttered by rote; "washing the dirt off" means cleansing them from extraneous thoughts. (Sefer HaMaamarim 5708)

And Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, Surely the L-rd is present in this place (Gen. 28:16)

Pharaoh, too, had a dream, about which the Torah states, "And Pharaoh awoke. And he slept and dreamed a second time." This expresses the essential difference between Jacob and Pharaoh: The first thing Jacob did when he woke up was direct his attention to G-dly service, studying Torah and praying. Pharaoh, by contrast, just turned over and went back to sleep... (Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)

And of all that You will give me I will surely give a tenth (Gen. 28:22)

The Hebrew for "I will surely give a tenth" is "aser a'asrenu," which repeats the word for tenth and means literally "a tenth I will tithe." This repetition contains an allusion: Giving a tenth of one's income to charity is certainly a mitzva, but giving a fifth-two tenths-is even better. (Rabbi Moshe Alshich)


It Once Happened

Hundreds of years ago there was no dependable mail service. Transportation was difficult, and communication between distant locations almost nonexistent. Often, when children left home to study in a yeshiva, they would be married and parents before their families learned of it.

Shabtai Cohen was no different from many other lads who followed our Sages' dictum to "exile oneself to a place of Torah." Nonetheless, it was a wrenching experience to leave his widowed mother and sister for a foreign land.

Despite the heartache, Shabtai's mother gave her blessing to her firstborn's departure. From an early age she had recognized that her son was destined for greatness. Only in a place of Torah could he live up to his vast potential and extraordinary talents.

The lad arrived in Vilna, where he studied several years in the city of Torah giants. When he reached marriageable age, he was taken as a son-in-law by one of Vilna's wealthiest and most respectable citizens and continued his studies. Within a few years he was a renowned legal authority and had authored the work Siftei Kohen, or as it is known by its initials, the Shach. However, his mother and sister knew nothing of this.

It was at this time in history that the cursed Chmielniki and his followers began to wreak havoc in Europe. The destruction they brought to the Shach's hometown was beyond description. Countless Jewish men, women and children were brutally murdered. Their property was plundered and their homes burned to the ground.

The Shach's sister was one of the lucky ones, managing to escape with the clothes on her back. In the course of her subsequent wanderings with a group of beggars, she arrived in the city of Vilna and sought shelter in a synagogue.

The gabbai's wife was immediately stricken by the young woman's obvious refinement, as evidenced by her bearing, speech and comportment. "How is it that you have been reduced to wandering?" she asked her kindly. "Why don't you remain here in Vilna? I will find you a respectable position, that you may earn your bread with honor."

The young woman was delighted by the offer, and was hired as a domestic by one of Vilna's leading families. After all of her travails, she was happy.

The mistress of the household was also soon impressed by the young woman's qualities. "The truth is that I really have enough domestic help," she told her. "But I have a special job for you, one that is not very difficult yet requires someone responsible. You see, my son-in-law is a talmid chacham, who studies Torah until very late at night. By that time, the rest of the household has already gone to bed, and no one is awake to serve him his supper. I would like to assign this task to you."

And so, that evening the young woman sat outside the son-in-law's study door and waited for him to finish. She listened as he studied aloud, and the sweet melody resonated within her soul and awakened long-forgotten memories. For a brief second she imagined herself a child back at home; the voice sounded uncannily like her late father, Reb Meir, of blessed memory. But of course, he had died years before when she was very young.

The contrast between the warm, pleasant dream and her present status as a poor orphan was suddenly too much to bear. A flood of emotion overwhelmed the young woman and her eyes filled with tears. Unable to control herself, she began to weep.

The son-in-law heard her crying and opened the door. When he asked her what was the matter, she refused to tell him and dried her eyes. "It's nothing," she said. The son-in-law went back to his studies. A few minutes later, however, she could no longer contain herself, as the sound of his learning was just too evocative. When he came out a second time she poured out her heart.

The young woman told the son-in-law all about her illustrious family, about her father who used to learn with the same sweet melody, and the wonderful memories his learning had brought back. Then she filled him in on the rest of her sad story.

She was so intent on her tale that she didn't notice how he had suddenly paled. The realization that the young woman was his sister almost made him faint. For the time being, however, he kept his emotions in check, and comforted her as best he could.

At the request of the Shach, the young woman was elevated to the status of family member. No one knew why, but everyone respected his wishes. The young woman was soon beloved by all.

A while later the mistress of the household fell ill and passed away. After the mourning period, the matchmakers pressed the husband to remarry, as he was still relatively young. When he asked his son-in-law what to do, he advised him to marry the young woman who had come to live with them. "She is modest, wise, and from a good family," the Shach told him. "G-d willing, at the wedding I will reveal her true identity."

And so it came to pass. The Shach revealed to everyone at the wedding that the bride was, in fact, his sister. As a wedding present the Shach blessed the new couple with a son who would illuminate the Jewish world; his blessing was fulfilled with the birth of the famous Rabbi Meir, author of the Panim Meirot.


Moshiach Matters

The coming of Moshiach has been likened to birth, for it is Moshiach who is alluded to in the Psalm (2:7) "This day I have begotten you." Birth, in essence, is the revelation of an infant who had been concealed in its mother's womb. With the coming of Moshiach, the essential Four-Letter Name of G-d (Havaya), which is now concealed in the self-obscuring contractions of the Divine Name "Elokim," will likewise become manifest. When a Jew stimulates the revelation of the Name "Havaya" by his fulfillment of the mitzvot, he brings nearer the self-revelation which will take place in time to come. (Torah Ohr Hosafot of the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dovber)


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