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by Tzvi Freeman
Some folks think of people much as we think of cars on a highway: Each with its own origin and destination, relating to one another only to negotiate lane changes and left-hand turns. For cars, closeness is danger, loneliness is freedom.
People are not cars. Cars are dead. People live. Living beings need each other, nurture one another, share destinies and reach them together. When you're alive, closeness is warmth, loneliness is suffocating.
People belong to families. Families make up communities. Communities make up the many colorful peoples of the world. And all those peoples make up a single, magnificent body with a single soul called humankind.
Some chop this body into six billion fragments and roll it back into a single mush. They want each person to do his or her own thing and relate equally to every other individual on the planet. They don't see the point of distinct peoples. They feel such distinctions just get in the way.
But we are like leaves extending from twigs branching out from larger twigs on branches of larger branches until we reach the trunk and roots of us all. Each of us has our place on this tree of life, each its source of nurture-and on this the tree relies for its very survival.
None of us walks alone. Each carries the experiences of ancestors wherever he or she roams, along with their troubles, their traumas, their victories, their hopes and their aspirations. Our thoughts grow out of their thoughts, our destiny shaped by their goals. At the highest peak we ever get to, there they are, holding our hand, pushing us upward, providing the shoulders on which to stand. And we share those shoulders, that consciousness, that heritage with all the brothers and sisters of our people.
That's why your own people are so important: If you want to find peace with any other person in the world, you've got to start with your own brothers and sisters. Until then, you haven't yet found peace within your own self. And only when you've found peace within yourself can you help find peace for the entire world.
Every Jew is a brother or sister of a great family of many thousands of years. Wherever a Jew walks, there walk sages and martyrs, heroes and heroines, legends and miracles, all the way back to Abraham and Sara, the first two Jews who challenged the whole world with their ideals. There walk the tears, the blood and the chutzpa of millennia, the legacy of those who lived, yearned and died for a World To Come, a world the way it was meant to be.
Their destiny is our destiny. In us they are fulfilled. In all of us and every one of us, and all of us together. For we are all one.
When one Jew does an act of kindness, all our hands extend with his or hers. If one Jew should fall, all of us stumble. If one suffers, we all feel pain. When one rejoices, we are all uplifted. In our oneness we will find our destiny and our destiny is to be One. For we are a single body, breathing with a single set of lungs, pulsating with a single heart, drawing from a single well of consciousness.
We are one. Let it be with love.
This article was inspired by the first discourse of the Rebbe upon his accepting the mantle of leadership of the Lubavitch movement, 10 Shvat, 5711.
Tzvi Freeman is the author of "Bringing Heaven Down to Earth/365 Meditations of the Rebbe."
This week's Torah portion, Bo, contains the very first commandment that was given to the Jews as a people - the mitzva of Rosh Chodesh, the new moon. "This month shall be to you the first of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you." The beginning of a new month is determined by witnesses who testify to the appearance of the new moon. The Jewish court then formally establishes and sanctifies it as Rosh Chodesh.
The fact that this was the very first mitzva the Jews were given demonstrates its primary importance in Judaism. In general, the main effect the Torah's mitzvot have on the physical world is to imbue it with G-dliness. When a mitzva is performed with a physical object, the object itself becomes holy, and the material plane of existence is sanctified.
The mitzva of the new moon is unique in that instead of physical objects, it relates to the dimension of time. Through this mitzva, a "regular" day is transformed into Rosh Chodesh, a day with special sanctity. When the Jewish court decides to establish a particular day as Rosh Chodesh, time itself is elevated and made holy.
In this respect, the mitzva of sanctifying the new moon has an advantage over all other mitzvot. The ability of other mitzvot to bring sanctity into the world is limited, and exists on many levels. For example, an object directly used to perform a mitzva becomes a "a utensil of holiness." Other aspects of the physical world are elevated when a Jew uses them for the "sake of heaven." Then there are things that are only considered "tools," as preparation for the performance of an actual mitzva.
However, the mitzva of Rosh Chodesh is more far-reaching than all of these. When the Jewish court establishes a certain day as Rosh Chodesh, the effect is felt throughout the month, and indeed, throughout the entire year, as the court also determines the occurrence of a leap year.
Another advantage to affecting the dimension of time is that time is generally thought of as something over which we have no control. Time cannot be made longer or shorter; it cannot be hurried up or slowed down. Nonetheless, G-d gives the Jew the ability to sanctify time and transform it into "Jewish time," time that is thoroughly imbued with holiness.
"Conquering" time in this way hastens the time when the entire world will be suffused with holiness, in the times of Moshiach. When Moshiach comes and gathers in the exiles of Israel, the Sanhedrin will be reestablished in Jerusalem, and the laws of Rosh Chodesh will again be in effect.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 26
FROM THE REBBE TO THE KING
Rabbi Shlomo Matusof
by Rabbi Shalom Yaakov Chazan
One of the very first actions taken by the Rebbe after the passing of the Previous Rebbe was to send a delegation of shluchim (emissaries) to Morocco. In those days in the early fifties, Morocco was the only Arab country that allowed its Jewish citizens to live in relative peace and tranquillity. Although many of Morocco's Jews had emigrated to the newly-founded State of Israel, the Jewish community of Morocco was still sizable, and the Rebbe was very concerned about its spiritual welfare.
In the course of time the Rebbe's shluchim, headed by Rabbi Shlomo Matusof, established a huge network of Chabad institutions throughout the country that achieved renown even among non-Jews. Apparently, this is how King Hassan, who had a reputation for being sympathetic to the Jewish community, first came to hear about the Rebbe.
The liaison between the Jews and King Hassan was a man by the name of Mr. David Amar, the official head of the Jewish community of Morocco. By the grace of G-d he was well-liked by the King and his ministers, and the door to the royal palace was always open to him. Incidentally, Mr. Amar was himself very sympathetic to Chabad, and helped the Rebbe's shluchim out financially and otherwise many times.
In fact, it was Mr. Amar's friendship with the royal family and the Lubavitcher emissaries that eventually led to a written correspondence between the Rebbe and the King.
A few days before Passover of 1985, a very important meeting that had been organized by Mr. Amar was scheduled to take place in a New York hotel. A select group of American businessmen was to meet with King Hassan, with an eye toward investing in Morocco. A successful outcome was crucial to Morocco's economy.
In the midst of the evening's festivities, the King called Mr. Amar over and told him that he was interested in meeting the famous Lubavitcher Rebbe who lived in New York. Why hadn't the Rebbe also been invited to the event? he wanted to know.
Mr. Amar explained as diplomatically as he could that the Rebbe was a holy tzadik who rarely ventured out of 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. To meet with the Rebbe, an appointment had to be arranged through the Rebbe's secretariat.
After listening to Mr. Amar's explanation, the King expressed his desire to receive the Rebbe's blessing in the form of a letter. He also specified which blessings he was most interested in. The King further stated that he would respond with an official letter of his own after the Rebbe's letter was received.
As soon as he returned to Morocco Mr. Amar contacted Rabbi Matusof. "Mr. Amar told me everything the King had said," Rabbi Matusof recalls. "Having heard that the Rebbe was a holy and powerful individual and, most importantly, a man of peace, he was very interested in receiving the Rebbe's blessing. Mr. Amar asked me to go through whatever channels that existed to obtain a letter from the Rebbe for the King.
"Naturally, I was very excited by the prospect. An invaluable opportunity to further the cause of Chabad and spread Judaism in Morocco had just fallen into my lap..."
Mr. Amar, who was about to return to New York for a visit, wrote a letter to the Rebbe requesting a yechidut - a private audience - and also requested that the Rebbe write a letter to the King. He wrote (freely translated from the French): "I allow myself the presumption of an additional request: With the Rebbe's persmission, I would be eternally grateful for a letter addressed to his Royal Highness, King Hassanof Morocco. This would be of great benefit to the Moroccan Jewish community and indeed, would serve to strengthen ties between the royal palace and all of world Jewry."
Both letters were personally conveyed to the Rebbe by Rabbi Binyomin Gorodetzky, the Rebbe's representative to Europe and North Africa.
Mr. Amar was unable to have a yechidut, as the Rebbe had by then stopped receiving people individually. The Rebbe's response to King Hassan would therefore be conveyed through Rabbi Gorodetzky. A copy of the letter was also sent to Rabbi Matusof.
A meeting was set up between Rabbi Gorodetzky and King Hassan in the royal palace in Marrakesh. Rabbi Gorodetzky flew from France to Casablanca, where Mr. Amar's private plane whisked him off to Marrakesh.
It turned out that Mr. Amar did indeed have excellent political connections, and he and Rabbi Gorodetzky were admitted into the palace as soon as they arrived. The king's servants led them directly to an elegant hall where King Hassan II of Morocco, dressed in military uniform, was waiting for them.
The actual encounter was very short. Rabbi Gorodetzky blessed the King in the Rebbe's name, then handed him the Rebbe's letter. The King, obviously pleased, thanked Rabbi Gorodetzky warmly. And that was the end of the meeting.
What was the King's answer to the Rebbe? Rabbi Matusof isn't telling. All he will say is that this first meeting laid the foundation for the relationship between the Rebbe and King Hassan II that followed.
Reprinted with permission from Beis Moshiach Magazine.
CHANGE THE WORLD:
One Mitzva at a Time
Change the World: One Mitzva at a Time is an international campaign being implemented by Chabad-Lubavitch Centers around the world in celebration of 50 years of the Rebbe's inspiration and leadership. It embodies the Rebbe's call to hasten the Redemption and bring Moshiach through acts of "goodness and kindness." The goal is to touch 5,000,000 Jews around the world through five intensive one-week campaigns, each week focusing on a different mitzva. Week One/Jan. 15-22: Ahavat Yisrael - Friendship and Kindness; Week Two/Mar. 31-April 7: Kosher Awareness; Week Three/May 19-26: Mezuza; Week Four/June 30 - July 7: Torah Study; Week Five/Sept. 8-15: Shabbat Candles. For more information call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or 1-800-MITZVAH. Or visit the website at www.800MITZVAH.com
5 Shevat, 5711 
To the 7th Annual Convention of the Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education under the auspices of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch
You are most fortunate indeed that Divine Providence has given you the privilege of rendering invaluable service for the cause of Jewish education, especially through the Religious Release Hour program. In the words of my father-in-law, the late Lubavitcher Rabbi, of sainted memory: You have removed from thousands of Jewish children the stigma of absolute ignorance of Yiddishkeit, and hundreds of children, boys, and girls, are now getting a kosher Jewish education in Yeshivos, Talmud Torahs [afternoon Hebrew schools] and schools for girls, thanks to your good influence.
The work which you are doing is the highest form of spiritual Tzedoko [charity]; it is truly lifesaving. For such a cause, especially where there are no other volunteers, no self-sacrifice can be too great.
I fervently hope that you will expend every effort toward enlarging the scope of your work, adding new centers of instruction and enlarging the number of children benefiting from them, so as to bring the "lost tribes of Israel" back to their fold, to Torah and Mitzvos.
I also hope that Jewry at large will appreciate and recognize your sincere efforts and great accomplishments and will extend to you their utmost cooperation and assistance.
May the Almighty fulfill the blessings with which my father-in-law of saintly memory blessed you and your supporters for all the good which you richly deserve, materially and spiritually.
With best wishes and blessings,
11th of Shevat, 5719 
I was pleased to receive regards from you through the delegation from Boston which came to participate in yesterday's farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] on the occasion of the Yahrzeit [anniversary of the passing] of my father-in-law of saintly memory. Your name was thus brought to my attention during the farbrengen and, as you know, it is always an auspicious time when Jews get together for a sacred purpose connected with the Torah and Mitzvos, and especially on such an occasion as yesterday's to honor the memory of one who has truly dedicated his life to this sacred cause, and who has founded numerous Torah institutions where the students are brought up to follow in his path with true dedication.
It is especially an auspicious time to receive G-d's blessings for those who devote time and energy in support of his institutions and, moreover, take a leading role and inspire others as I hope is the case with you and, as I further hope, that you will continue your good efforts in an ever-growing measure.
I still recall the pleasure of your visit when we discussed those important matters, and I hope to receive good reports about your good efforts in this direction with growing vigor and in good health and happiness.
I will remember you in prayer when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory, at a propitious time, for consistent good health.
Hoping to hear good news from you,
25th of Shevat, 5736 
This is to confirm receipt of your correspondence, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.
Since the daily life and conduct in accordance with G-d's Will is the channel and vessel to receive G-d's blessings, it is well to bear in mind that every additional effort in matters of Torah and Mitzvos is bound to bring additional Divine blessings in all needs, although the Torah and Mitzvos must be fulfilled for their own sake.
In connection with Yud Shevat [the 10th of the Hebrew month of Shevat], the Yahrzeit of my saintly father-in-law of blessed memory - at whose holy resting place you and yours will be remembered in prayer - it is timely to reflect on his lifelong and selfless dedication to strengthen and spread Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. The inspiration of his life and work should surely stimulate each and every one of us to follow in his footsteps with great dedication on our part. All the more so, since his prayers and blessings accompany everyone who carries on his sacred work, for Hatzlocho [success] in this and in all personal needs.
9 Shevat 5760
Prohibition 294: punishing a person for a sin committed under duress
By this prohibition we are forbidden to punish a person for a sin that was committed under duress, since he acted under constraint. It is contained in the Torah's words (Deut. 22:26): "But to the maiden you shall do nothing."
This coming Monday is Yud (the tenth of) Shevat, corresponding to January 17. It is the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn and the anniversary of 50 years of leadership of the Rebbe.
Jewish life goes in cycles of seven, the seventh being consecrated and holy. For instance, the week has seven days, and the seventh day is the holy Sabbath.
Similarly, the Torah tells us to work the land for six years, but in the seventh year-the Sabbatical ("Shmita") year-we let the land rest.
Seven cycles of seven years culminates with the Jubilee, or Yovel, in Hebrew. In Biblical times, slaves were set free, debts were nullified, all land went back to its original owners and it was not permitted to work the land in the Yovel year. It was a year totally dedicated to study of Torah and observance of mitzvot; a year of reflection in tandem with active pursuit of transcending limitations and achieving higher goals.
We now find ourselves in the Jubilee year of the Rebbe's leadership, a time to enhance our study of Torah and observance of mitzvot; a year of reflection in tandem with active pursuit of transcending limitations and achieving higher goals.
This year, our every action should be inculcated with the primary and ultimate goal with which the Rebbe imbued his leadership, the goal of bringing Moshiach. In the Rebbe's words in his first public Chasidic discourse:
"It is this that is demanded of each and every one of us... We are now very near the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, indeed, we are at the conclusion of this period, and our spiritual task is to complete the process of drawing down the Shechina [Divine Presence]-moreover, the essence of the Shechina-within specifically our lowly world."
May we imminently reach the ideal world in which there is no jealousy nor animosity among individuals and nations, but only peace, justice and benevolence under One G-d.
Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart (Ex. 10:1)
If the purpose of the Ten Plagues would have been to "soften" Pharaoh's heart, his free will - the ability to choose without outside coercion - would have been impaired. G-d therefore "hardened" Pharaoh's heart to level the playing field and preserve his free will. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for "hard," "kaveid," also means "liver." The longer liver is cooked, the harder it becomes. Pharaoh's heart was like a piece of liver; as the Ten Plagues progressed, it just got harder and more rigid... (HaDrash Veha'Iyun)
How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? (Ex. 10:3)
The nature of a Jew is such that even when he isn't submissive before G-d, his own lack of submission distresses him. In his heart of hearts, the Jew desires to be nullified before Him. Pharaoh, by contrast, was proud of his arrogance and not at all ashamed of it. (Sefat Emet)
This month shall be to you the first of months (Ex. 12:2)
During the Sanctification of the New Moon we say, "David, King of Israel, is living and enduring." The rule of the House of David is likened to the moon: In the same way that the moon seems to disappear from the sky, yet everyone has faith in its eventual reappearance, so too will the Davidic dynasty ultimately be restored with the coming of Moshiach. (Rama)
The Talmud states (Sukka 29a): "Israel reckons [the months] according to the moon; the nations of the world, according to the sun." Metaphorically, this means that the gentile nations flourish only when the "sun is shining," when things go well for them. As soon as the "sun" goes down, they cease to exist. But the Jewish people is able to flourish even in times of darkness, spreading the light of Torah and illuminating the gloom. (Sefat Emet)
As related by Rabbi Yehuda Leib Groner, a member of the Rebbe's secretariat.
Recently, a woman told me that she had been very disturbed as she had never received a dollar from the Rebbe.
[Ed.'s note: For a number of years the Rebbe distributed dollar bills each Sunday to anyone who came to "770"-Lubavitch World Headquarters. These dollars were intended to be given to charity. Most people "exchanged" the dollar for one of their own which they gave to charity and kept the dollar from the Rebbe. At the time when the Rebbe was distributing dollars he would also often speak with the individual very briefly, blessing him or her with whatever he needed.]
The woman wrote a letter to the Rebbe stating that though she had never received a dollar, she was sure that the Rebbe would find a way to give her one. She placed the letter randomly in one of the volumes of Igrot Kodesh-the Rebbe's personal correspondence throughout the years to a multitude of people, and soon afterwards went to "770" to pray.
In "770," someone approached her and asked, "Did you ever get a dollar from the Rebbe?" After confirming that the woman had never received a dollar, she said, "If that's the case, I have a dollar for you."
The first woman did not want to accept the dollar as she assumed it had been given personally to the other woman. But the second woman responded, "It's not my dollar. Some years ago, I found a dollar as I was walking down the street. On it was written the date and that it had been received from the Rebbe. I noted when and where I found it and posted a few notices to try to find the person who had lost it. But no one has claimed it all these years. The 'anniversary' of my finding the dollar was a week or two ago and I decided it was time to give it to someone who had never received a dollar from the Rebbe."
The woman accepted the dollar gladly. She wrote a letter thanking the Rebbe for the dollar and inserted the letter into the Igrot Kodesh. On the page she opened to the Rebbe was quoting the Talmud, "He who takes a coin from Job [who was a righteous person] is blessed." In black and white the Rebbe was confirming for her that the dollar was from him, a "coin from Job."
A little while after that, the woman came to me saying that she was still not satisfied.
"But you received a dollar from the Rebbe and a confirmation that the dollar was from the Rebbe!" I reminded her.
She said that for the past few days she had not been feeling well. She decided to write to the Rebbe once again, this time concerning her health, and she put the letter into a different volume of the Igrot Kodesh.
The page she opened to contained a letter that said, "I don't understand why you are complaining. Our Sages say, 'He who takes a coin...' In a dollar there are one hundred coins, so why are you concerned and unhappy?"
The second letter was a confirmation and continuation of the first letter.
A week later, a young man came into my office.
"I am just returning from the 'Ohel' [the Rebbe's resting place] and I had a miracle today!"
The young man explained to me that he had been unable to make the mortgage payments on his house and the bank had taken it away. The bank offered to sell it back to him but he knew he would not be able to make the hefty mortgage payments. He gave them an offer which was much lower. The bank told him, "We'll make a deal with you. You buy the house for the amount you think you can pay and we'll somehow find a way to get the balance from you, but not as part of your mortgage."
That wasn't a feasible solution for the young man as he didn't have the means to pay the balance even "somehow."
The young man went to the Ohel and asked the Rebbe for a blessing that the bank should forgo the balance and that he should only have to pay the amount he had told them he could afford.
As he was leaving the Ohel, his cell phone rang. It was the bank manager. They had just had a meeting of the mortgage committee and had decided to accept his offer with no obligation to pay the balance.
While I was in Israel a few weeks ago, a man from Kiryat Gat approached me. He told me that his eight-year-old daughter had suddenly stopped seeing out of her left eye. They had taken her to a number of doctors who all told them that the loss of eyesight was inexplicable and they could do nothing for her. The distraught father asked me if, when I return to New York, I would mention her name to the Rebbe at the Ohel. I wrote down her name and her mother's name and upon my return to New York went to the Ohel and fulfilled the father's request.
Today, I received a phone call from my son in Israel. The man had asked my son to call me and relay the good news that soon after I mentioned his daughter's name at the Ohel she began to see again in her left eye. They took her back to one of the eye specialists who confirmed that her eyesight had been completely restored. The doctor had no way of explaining it.
In the Era of the Redemption true happiness will be experienced as it is written, "Then our mouths will be filled with laughter."...The coming of the Future Redemption... will be hastened by our activities in the three general approaches of Torah study, prayer, and deeds of kindness when carried out amidst happiness. (The Rebbe, 3 Shevat, 5752)