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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   588: Bereshit

589: Noach

590: Lech-Lecha

591: Vayera

592: Chayei Sara

593: Toldot

594: Vayetzei

595: Vayishlach

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Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

Bamidbar Numbers

Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
November 26, 1999 - 17 Kislev, 5760

595: Vayishlach

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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.


  594: Vayetzei596: Vayeshev  

Talking Turkey  |  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

Talking Turkey

What is particularly interesting at this time of year about the gallinaceous birds of the family Meleagrididae we commonly call "turkeys"? Well, when we think of turkeys, we are more likely to think of waddling on two feet than wings beating in graceful flight. Nevertheless, turkeys can fly, albeit only for short distances and quite clumsily.

And now we have an excuse to ponder the imagery of wings and flight in Jewish teaching and thought:

The "wings" of the Shechina is often used when referring to being shielded by G-d's Divine Presence.

The cherubs that stood atop the ark in the Holy of Holies had the faces of children and wings rising out of their bodies. When the cherubs were face-to face and their wings were outstretched one toward the other, it was a sign that the Jewish people were united with eachother and at one with G-d.

In our own personal attempts to connect with G-d, the imagery of wings is also present. Love and awe of G-d are likened to two wings. We are encouraged to properly develop these two traits so that we can use them to rise above our daily constraints and challenges.

Contrast a turkey with a very distant cousin: the eagle. Immediately we note a number of differences, especially in their flying ability. Eagles are known for their strength, speed and grace in flight. So synonymous are eagles with swiftness that when someone tells you he's going to "fly like an eagle" it means he's planning on getting somewhere very quickly.

In the the Mishna - Chapters of the Fathers - we are instructed to be "light as an eagle" to fulfill personal mission with which G-d has entrusted each of us. In reality, an eagle is far from light; despite its weight, it flies very high and as if it were light. The eagle and its powerful wings are teaching us the importance of having "high" ideals, even when those ideals are "heavy."

For an eagle to fly with the force and precision for which it is known, it has to have powerful, finely developed wings. And to get the most mileage out of those two wings they need to be of equal strength.

The two types of mitzvot which we have been given - those between a person and another person and those between a person and G-d - are also regarded as wings. By observing both kinds of mitzvot, we can soar to great heights.

However, Jewish teachings discourage us from favoring one "wing" over the other. We cannot neglect those mitzvot between ourselves and G-d in favor of the interpersonal mitzvot, for then we would be like a bird with only one wing.

The Midrash teaches that when Moshiach comes, we will fly to the Land of Israel on the wings of eagles. As we develop our personal wings we hasten the realization of our people's eternal prayers for the ultimate Redemption.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Vayishlach, tells us of Jacob's eventual return to Israel after the many years he spent working for Laban, and after the confrontation with his brother Esau. The Torah states: "And Jacob came whole to the city of Shechem." Rashi explains that Jacob was sound and "whole" in three ways-sound in body, for his limp had healed; perfect in means, as his wealth was still intact; and whole in Torah, for he had not forgotten any of his vast Torah knowledge during his absence.

It would certainly seem that the Torah could have found a more direct way of saying that Jacob emerged unscathed by his experience with Laban. Furthermore, in light of the fact that G-d had already promised Jacob that He would protect him from both Laban and Esau, why does the Torah need to tell us that Jacob was indeed unharmed?

Rather, the words "and Jacob came whole" do not refer only to Jacob's escape from the cunning of Laban and the wrath of Esau, but refer to a different type of wholeness entirely.

Our Sages taught that the story of Jacob's sojourn with Laban symbolizes the saga of the Jewish people in exile. Jacob's success in overcoming his own personal experience with Laban has served as a source of inspiration for us, his grandchildren, throughout our long exile.

Not only are the nations of the world unable to destroy the eternity of the Jewish people (just as Jacob was untouched by the schemes of both Laban and Esau), but we are assured by the Torah that the Jewish nation will eventually emerge "whole," in a three-fold sense, when our exile is over.

"Whole in body" - Although our present exile is characterized by trials and tribulations, their purpose is to arouse the Jew's innate resources. G-d has promised that despite all our suffering, the Jewish people will be perfect and uninjured after Moshiach comes to establish the Messianic era.

"Whole in means" - Just as Jacob amassed a great fortune while in the employ of Laban, so too shall the Jews amass great wealth during their years of hardship. The whole purpose of exile is for us to utilize the world's physical assets in the service of G-d, elevating the sparks of holiness found in even the most lowly and mundane objects we encounter.

Furthermore, we are assured that all the time and energy which was spent in the pursuit of perfecting our worldly affairs will not have been wasted, and will also be elevated and transformed into holiness with the coming of Moshiach.

"Whole in Torah" - Lastly, we are assured that the Jewish people will not lose any of their former spiritual greatness and love of Torah. Just as Jacob's long years of toil did not cause him to forget what he had learned, so too will we eventually triumph, untouched by our struggles in exile.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot vol. 25


A Slice of Life

AN ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK

by Michael Wollenberg

What am I, a British university-educated, modern-thinking Jew, doing in the "ghetto" of Crown Heights, Brooklyn? Not only have friends asked me that, but I myself had this same question when I first arrived on the North American continent.

I have come to realize that being an educated, modern-thinking Jew and living/studying in Crown Heights are not incompatible. One of the first things I learned in these past few years since I began my association with Chabad-Lubavitch is that there is no conflict between intellect, Judaism, science, and modernity. There can be a fusion between all these things, with no contradictions. It just requires a shift in perception.

I acquired this shift in perception as well as a change in my own outlook of many other things since coming to Crown Heights. For instance, I used to think that being a "religious" Jew and Torah Judaism was not for me. I was a comfortable, traditional, English Jew who combined Jewish tradition with reality! Now my reality has changed.

I find myself sitting in yeshiva and learning more about our common heritage in a way I never knew existed. I am probably even becoming one of those "religious" Jews and loving every minute of it! My previous experiences at my Jewish high school, Carmel College, were mixed; some were undoubtedly positive but never enough to really convince me.

So how did I wind up in Yeshiva Hadar Hatorah? It was thanks to Rabbi Rony Greenberg, a teacher at Carmel College, who sat me down and told me that since I was going to apply to Oxford or Cambridge and had spent, and would yet spend, a lot of time in secular learning, I owed it to myself to try intensive Jewish learning for a year.

I fell for it. After six months of pontificating I decided to go to yeshiva for five months during my year off before university. I set off for a yeshiva in Jerusalem, on the recommendation of a cousin of mine. It opened my mind up and I thought I had finally reached my destination. After my yeshiva experience I decided to start wearing a kipa (for "identity" reasons) and started observing Shabbat and keeping kosher.

It may sound as if after my five month stint in yeshiva I had become "religious." But I still had many doubts. One thing I was certain of, though, and that was that when I got to university I was going to avoid the "chaplain" to the students, Rabbi Fishel Cohen, as much as possible by pretending to be so religious already that I didn't need him! It worked for a few weeks but then I gave up trying. Not only did I not "avoid" Rabbi Cohen, I ended up spending many happy hours in his company and in the company of his family at their home in Birmingham.

It was during this time that I discovered something pretty neat which has since recurred throughout the Lubavitch world (as I discover more and more of it). There was a guy on my corridor in the dorm in my first year of university who would bang on my door early in the morning and drag me to shul. He was a Lubavitcher, devoutly religious yet very "cool" and popular with everyone.

I met various people through and in university who were Lubavitcher Chasidim, but there were three things that stood out about them all: First, they were fully accepting of everyone and anyone, totally inclusivist, not cliquey or socially stuck-up, the exact opposite. Second, they always had a positive approach to everything. Third, and most important, they seemed very strict about Jewish law and customs, but it didn't faze me because when you saw them doing a mitzva, they actually did it like they meant it, with real feeling and a desire to come close to their Creator. This last point inspired me to think that maybe there is really something to "all that ritual," that it has a higher purpose after all. These Lubavitchers were people who actually believed in what they were doing and a higher purpose. They certainly seemed more spiritually fulfilled then I was.

During my final year of university, I realised I wanted to look into this Jewish spiritual business a bit more, so I decided it was time to go off to yeshiva again. Looking for a Chabad-Lubavitch affiliated yeshiva, I contacted Rabbi Eli Cohen (my Rabbi's brother) of Chabad at New York University, who recommended Hadar Hatorah as a good option, especially for post-college students. My friend who used to wake me up for shul back in the early days had also attended their summer program in upstate New York, and he recommended it highly, so I took the plunge and bought my plane ticket.

So here I am in New York. I never did actually get a chance to see the Rebbe, even for a fleeting instant. Yet the Rebbe remains the undisputed leader and inspiration behind all the outreach and abundant love for Jews we see from Lubavitch around the world.

They say that the difference between a Rebbe and a Rabbi is that when a Rabbi says something, everybody listening figures "he's talking to the person next to me." When a Rebbe speaks you think "he's talking to ME!" This is certainly true and through the Rebbe's teachings I have discovered many insights and necessary courses of action which no other Jewish teachings have ever inspired me to do.

I still have a lot to learn and I have certainly not finished my journey. But all I can say is I have no regrets and I haven't looked back. To my fellow countrymen and women (and all Jews) I say, "Don't be so English! Change! Try new things, experiment, experience different things." You will discover a Judaism you never knew existed, a vibrant, committed, joyous, spiritual way of life. You may not opt for all of it but at least look into it. That is intellectual honesty. What are you waiting for?"

To find out more about Hadar Hatorah or have a "taste" of yeshiva, attend Hadar Hatorah's Yeshivacation Dec 23-Jan 2. Call 718-735-0250 or email hadarh@ix.netcom.com


What's New

FROM THE HEAVENS TO THE HEART

The finely crafted stories in From the Heavens to the Heart, by Tzvi Jacobs, are gems of wisdom based on ordinary experience seen through the eyes of a person alert to the higher purpose of existence. This new book contains 22 inspirational stories of extraordinary happenings in the lives of ordinary people. Available through your local bookstore. Visit the author's website at www.lebsontech.com/miracle


The Rebbe Writes

10th of Kislev, 5743 [1982]

To All Participants in the

Chabad Chanukah Dinner

Cleveland, Ohio

Greeting and Blessing:

I take pleasure in extending Chanukah greetings and all good wishes to the distinguished Co-Chairmen and all of you participating in this auspicious occasion.

Although the event is designed in conjunction with a tribute to a person, it is surely intended for the movement which he has the privilege to lead - a movement which has been in the forefront of Jewish life for the past 200 years. Indeed, the 19th of this month of Kislev marks the Geulah [redemption] Day of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the Founder of the Chabad movement, as you all know.

The Alter Rebbe [as Rabbi Schneur Zalman was known] had dedicated his life to the revitalization of Torah-true Yiddishkeit among the broad masses of our Jewish people, through the study of Torah that permeates all three intellectual faculties - Chochmoh (Wisdom), Binah (Understanding), Daas (Knowledge) - Chabad, leading to the fulfillment of the Mitzvos with awe of G-d and love of G-d, emphasizing that the love of G-d, love of the Torah and love of fellow Jew are inseparably intertwined. Personifying these qualities, and dedicating his total life to the task of spreading Yiddishkeit permeated with these qualities, and with all the trials and challenges that he faced and overcame, he paved the way for all of us to follow with ease.

It is doubly significant that the Chabad Dinner is taking place in the middle of Chanukah, for Chabad incorporates and reflects the central message of Chanukah, namely, to light up the home, as well as the "outside" with the light of Torah and Mitzvos, as symbolized by the Chanukah Lights and the manner of kindling them, namely, adding lights and increasing their brightness from day to day.

May Hashem continue to bless the work of Chabad in the Cleveland area, and throughout the State, particularly the Chabad House of Cleveland and its ramified activities. And may Hashem bestow His generous blessings on all of you who are active partners and supporters of these vital services and programs.

With prayerful wishes for Hatzlocho [success], and for a happy and bright Chanukah and a bright always,

With blessing,

8th Chanukah Light, 5725 [1964]

.... Let no one delude oneself that it is difficult to conduct a truly Jewish home. On the contrary; it is, in truth, difficult for a Jew - because of his whole essence as a Jew - to conduct himself otherwise, inasmuch as everything that is alien to the spirit of the Torah and Mitzvos is inconsistent with his inner nature and inner being. The Old Rebbe, author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch [Codes of Jewish Law], expressed it this way: "A Jew is neither able, nor willing, to separate himself from G-dliness."

This fundamental concept is clearly enunciated in the Rambam (Sefer Noshim, Hal. 2, end of ch. 21) in connection with the Halacha [law] which declares that when a Jew is coerced into performing a Mitzvah, he performs it of his own will. Superficially there appears to be here a contradiction. However, the Rambam explains it as follows: Every Jew desires to be a Jew, and to do all the Mitzvos, and to keep far away from Averos (transgressions); but because of a delusion he thinks that he is unwilling. Consequently, the coercion merely removes the compulsion stemming from the false delusion, thus unshackling his true will to perform the Mitzvos voluntarily and willingly.


Rambam this week

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

18 Kislev, 5760

Prohibition 251: wronging another by speech

By this prohibition we are forbidden to wrong one another by speech, i.e., saying hurtful things that will wound, humiliate and cause pain. It is contained in the words (Lev. 25:27): "You shall not wrong one another, but shall fear your G-d."


A Word from the Director

This Sunday we will celebrate the 19th of Kislev (known as "Yud Tes Kislev"), the Festival of Redemption of the founder of Chabad Chasidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. Imprisoned on false charges of anti-government activity, Rabbi Schneur Zalman was released after 52 days of incarceration and interrogation, in the year 5559 (1798). His liberation vindicated Chasidic teachings, and established Chasidut as the primary way to prepare the world for Moshiach.

Lesser known is that the Alter Rebbe, as he was called, was subjected to a second confinement two years later, when he was summoned to Peterburg to appear before a government commission. This second imprisonment, which took the form of house arrest, was also the result of slander against the Chasidic movement. Again the Rebbe was found innocent of all charges, and was freed by the decree of Czar Alexander I.

The first public observance of Yud Tes Kislev was held in 5562 (1801), when thousands of Chasidim came to celebrate with the Alter Rebbe in Liadi. On that occasion, the Rebbe delivered a Chasidic discourse on the verse in Psalms, "G-d has redeemed my soul in peace." (By Divine Providence, this was the verse the Rebbe had been reading in prison at the exact moment he was informed of his release.) Before delivering the discourse, the Alter Rebbe sang a famous Chasidic melody to the words "You are my G-d and I will praise You; My L-rd, I will exalt You."

Yud Tes Kislev has ever since been celebrated as the Chasidic "New Year," with festive gatherings of family, friends and acquaintances. It is a particularly auspicious day to rededicate ourselves to Torah, deeds of kindness, and prayer.

As the Rebbe wrote in a telegram to Chasidim a few years ago: "May you be inscribed - and may that inscription be sealed - for a good year in the study of Chasidut and in Chasidic ways of conduct."


Thoughts that Count

Then Jacob was greatly afraid, and distressed (Gen. 32:8)

According to Rashi, Jacob was worried over the possibility that he would be forced to kill "acheirim," literally "others." Our Sages, however, relate that "Acheirim" was also the name of the famous Rabbi Meir, who was descended from the Roman Emperor Nero, who converted to Judaism. Jacob was thus afraid that if he killed Esau, he would thereby be preventing the great sage from being born. (Peninim Yekarim)

Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau (Gen. 32:12)

The repetition of the word "hand" indicates that Jacob was afraid of two separate dangers: the "hand of Esau," Esau's brute physical power, and "the hand of my brother," Esau's brotherly love. Esau's sword posed a threat to Jacob's physical well-being, but socializing with him would be an even greater threat to his soul. (Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik)

And he commanded also (gam) the second, also (gam) the third, also (gam) all that followed the droves (Gen. 32:20)

The Hebrew word "gam" (spelled gimmel-mem) is used three times to allude to the three historical redemptions of the Jewish people through the three tzadikim: The first was "geulat Moshe," the redemption from Egypt led by Moses. The second was "geulat Mordechai," the redemption in the times of Mordechai which culminated in the holiday of Purim. And the third will be "geulat Moshiach," who will usher in the Final Redemption. (Yosher Adam)

And he said, Not Jacob shall your name be called anymore, but Israel (Gen. 32:30)

Among any other nation in the world, if an individual commits a crime, no one would think of holding the entire population accountable. But when it comes to Jews, let one "Jacob" disobey the law, and all of "Israel" is responsible... (Mateh Yehuda)


It Once Happened

Moshe the innkeeper was a lucky man, the owner of a flourishing establishment with a steady stream of customers. He had a warm Jewish heart and a simple, unswerving faith in G-d. A follower of the Baal Shem Tov, he travelled to Mezhibozh from time to time, to "recharge" his spiritual batteries.

On one such occasion, when he went to receive his customary blessing from the Baal Shem Tov before departing, the tzadik assigned him a mission. "On your way home," the Baal Shem Tov said, "I would appreciate it if you passed through such and such a town, where my dear student Ber lives. Please go to his house and convey my warmest regards." Needless to say, Moshe was delighted at the opportunity to fulfill his Rebbe's request.

In fact, Moshe the innkeeper was very excited at having been singled out. Being entrusted with any mission was a great honor, but delivering a message to a "dear student"? He was almost beside himself. As he traveled along, he tried to imagine who the individual in question might be. Surely he was a famous rabbinical personage, a respected Torah sage.

When he reached the town in question, Moshe began to make inquiries about the "great gaon Rabbi Ber." Oddly enough, no one seemed to know who he was talking about, or even care, for that matter. "There's no one here by that name," everyone told him.

Moshe was stunned and confused. Maybe there was something wrong with his memory? Over and over he replayed the Baal Shem Tov's instructions in his mind, but each time the tzadik's words were the same; he had definitely referred to this town as the place "where my dear student Ber lives." All day long Moshe wandered the streets and alleyways, knocking on doors and asking passersby for information. But his search yielded nothing.

By late afternoon he was worn out. He was already on the outskirts of town when he came upon a small, dilapidated house. From behind the door he could hear the sounds of children. Moshe knocked on the door, and when it opened he saw a large room almost devoid of furniture. In the center sat a melamed on a rough tree stump, surrounded by little boys. "Boruch Haba!" the teacher welcomed the guest heartily. "Boruch Haba!" the children echoed.

"Perhaps you know the great sage Rabbi Ber?" Moshe inquired for the umpteenth time that day.

"The great sage Rabbi Ber I am not acquainted with," the melamed answered, "but I do know someone named Ber."

Moshe's heart began to beat excitedly. "Do you also know where he lives?" he asked with a glimmer of hope.

"Certainly," the man answered. "I am Ber."

"You are the Baal Shem Tov's student?" Moshe couldn't believe his eyes.

When the melamed heard the Baal Shem Tov's name his face grew serious and he began to tremble. "Yes, he is my teacher and master."

"In that case, I bring you warm regards from him," Moshe said. The melamed made him repeat the message several times, savoring every word.

His mission fulfilled, Moshe could no longer contain his curiosity. "Excuse me for asking, but how is it that the 'dear friend' of the Baal Shem Tov should live in such deplorable conditions?" he asked.

The melamed looked at Moshe for a long time but said nothing. Then, seeming to change the subject, he asked him a few personal questions.

"Thank G-d, I am married to a lovely woman and have fine children," Moshe answered. He proceeded to tell him about his inn and the abundant livelihood it provided.

The melamed then asked Moshe about his house. Moshe couldn't resist a smile as he described its elaborate architecture and its fine furnishings.

The melamed suddenly interrupted his reverie with a question. "And where will you be sleeping tonight?" he asked. "In the very first inn I come to," Moshe replied, somewhat thrown off track.

"But if everything you say is true," the melamed continued, "and you are such a wealthy man, why are you dressed so simply? And why would you even consider spending the night in a humble inn?"

"Oh, well that's because I'm on the road," the innkeeper answered. "When a person is traveling, his clothing and accommodations aren't that important."

The melamed looked deeply into Moshe's eyes. "You have spoken well, and my answer to you is the same. I, too, am 'on the road.' This whole world is only a passageway to the next. That is why I am not so particular about my accommodations, as it is not my true home..."

At that moment the innkeeper understood why the Baal Shem Tov had sent him on this particular mission, and what it was meant to teach him.

Incidentally, the melamed was none other than Rabbi Dovber, who went on to become the great Magid of Mezeritch, the Baal Shem Tov's successor. (He passed away on 19 Kislev 5533/1771).


Moshiach Matters

"He has redeemed my soul with peace..." The Talmud teaches that this verse alludes to the person who occupies himself with the study of Torah, does deeds of kindness and prays with a minyan; through this he redeems the Alm-ghty (so to speak) and the Jewish people from exile. Chasidut explains that the study of Torah here refers specifically to the mystical parts of Torah, the "peaceful" part of the Torah, for it includes no argument or difference of opinions; and only then is the Redemption with peace. (Hitvaaduyot 5726)


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