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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

April 16, 2000 - 11 Nissan, 5760

615: 11 Nissan

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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.

  615: Metzora616: Passover  

World leaders; statesmen; great rabbis; artists; business leaders: the roster of well-known personalities who interacted with the Rebbe is a veritable Who's Who. To some the Rebbe corresponded in writing, others came to the Rebbe for a private audience, still others received the Rebbe's blessing and advice at a brief encounter on Sundays when the Rebbe distributed dollars to be given to charity.

In honor of Yud Alef Nissan, the 98th birthday of the Rebbe, we present our readers with a few glimpses into these interactions.

The quotes from the Rebbe in this insert are culled from a variety of sources; there is a tremendous variance in style which we hope will not be distracting to the reader.

General Ariel Sharon
From a letter dated 13 Tishrei, 5728

I was deeply distressed to hear of your great loss - the tragic death of your young son, may he rest in peace.

It is not given to us to know the ways of the Creator. During the war, during the time of danger, it was His will that all be saved. Indeed you, sir, were one of those who achieved victory for our people of Israel against our enemies, when the many were delivered into the hands of the few. Yet, at home, and during a time of peace, this terrible tragedy happened. But how can a mortal understand the ways of the Creator?

There is no comparing our minds and His. We do not wonder that a small child does not understand the ways and conduct of an old and wise man, though the difference between them is only relative. This is no attempt to minimize the extent of your pain and grief, and I, too, share in your sorrow, though I am so far from you..

Herbert Weiner
Author, Nine and A Half Mystics
From an article by Mr. Weiner

Q: Is a Rebbe a human being like the rest of us, or something else?

A: We are, of course, all of us flesh and blood and I am not responsible for all the stories in your heart. But yes, a Rebbe can have special insight, see things and know things beyond the comprehension of most people.

Q: What about the Rebbe's blessing?

A: It is possible for the tzadik, the Rebbe, to awaken powers slumbering within a man. It is possible to bring himself into contact with a higher level of powers outside his own soul.

President Lyndon B. Johnson
From a letter dated 14th of Tishrei, 5725/Sept. 20, 1964

I have been informed of your taking a personal interest in the situation of the Jewish personnel at Thule Air Base, who had been left without a Jewish Chaplain for Yom Kippur.

Our emissary has now returned from his spiritual errand, his mission successfully accomplished. He praised very highly the courtesy and cooperation extended to him both at McGuire and Thule. Rabbi Lew particularly emphasized the profound gratitude of the Jewish personnel at Thule to you and to all concerned for having remembered them in connection with this most solemn day in the Jewish calendar. It has given them a great spiritual uplift and a warm feeling of "at-homeness" even in that remote, arctic outpost.

Mr. Ardadiusz Rybicki
President of the Council for Polish-Jewish Relations, Republic of Poland
From a letter dated 15th of Cheshvan, 5752 [1991]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter in which you express deep sorrow about the terrible anti-Semitic incident that took place last month in front of the synagogue in Warsaw; that the perpetrators were captured and will be prosecuted, and that the behavior was condemned by President Walesa, etc. You also express the hope that in the future intolerance and prejudice will disappear from the Polish people and that you are working towards this end.

Apropos of the above I would like to add that last month, in beginning of Tishrei, we ushered in the current Jewish Year, 5752, with the celebration of Rosh Hashana, the anniversary of the creation of the first man, Adam. Our Sages of the Talmud explain why the creation of man differed from the creation of other living species and why, among other things, man was created as a single individual, unlike other living creatures created in pairs. One of the reasons-our Sages declare-is that it was G-d's design that the human race, all humans everywhere and at all times, should know that each and all descend from the one and the same single progenitor, a fully developed human being created in the image of G-d, so that no human being could claim superior ancestral origin; hence would also find it easier to cultivate a real feeling of kinship in all inter human relationships.

Zalman Dimetrofsky
Former professor Jewish Theological Seminary, translator works of Rashba
From Conversations with the Rebbe, interviews by Rabbi Chaim Dalfin

During my second encounter with the Rebbe, he started to talk about a number of things. The main issue was korbonos [sacrifices], what the meaning of korbonos is, what is accomplished by the sacrifice of an animals. He explained that matter can be elevated and what a korban can do to raise physical matter. He gave a long explanation according to Chasidus. He said, "I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to the students." I got the message. What he wanted is that I should try to deliver to the students the message he was giving me.

At the time of this second audience there was much discussion in the seminary about the korbonos remaining in the prayerbook. There were those at the seminary who wanted to obliterate it. They felt it was outdated. I believe this is why the Rebbe spent so much time explaining to me the spiritual meaning of korbonos, demonstrating their relevance. This he felt I should communicate to my students as a counter response to those elements who felt korbonos were primitive.

President Jimmy Carter
From a letter dated 12 Shevat, 5739/February 9, 1979

The U.S. government, and you Mr. President personally, are in a unique position of influence among the nations of the world, particularly those benefiting from U.S. economic, cultural and other forms of aid, to encourage them to follow your example and to share your "conviction that the noblest task of government is education" - to quote your statement (2/28/78) - a conviction which has been translated into bold, comprehensive action. I am confident that the response will be positive, and I venture to say that it would have a favorable impact on those in this country who, for one reason or another, are not, as yet, enthusiastic about Congress legislation on the submitted project.

Vice President Walter F. Mondale
From a letter dated 29 Shevat, 5739/February 26, 1979

Education, in general, should not be limited to the acquisition of knowledge and preparation for a career, or in common parlance "to make a better living!" We must think in terms of a "better life," not only for the individual, but also for society as a whole. The educational system must, therefore, pay more attention, indeed, the main attention, to the building of character, with emphasis on moral and ethical values.

The skepticism on the part of those who, at present, oppose the Administration's educational program (of which you make mention in your Remarks) is, I believe, in large measure due to the shortcomings of the educational system in this country, which leaves much to be desired in the way of achieving its most basic objectives for a better society. In a country, such as ours, so richly blessed with democracy, freedom of opportunity, and material resources, one would expect that such anti-moral and anti-social phenomena as juvenile delinquency, vandalism, lack of respect for law and order, etc. would have been radically reduced, to the point of ceasing to be a problem. Hence, it is not surprising that many feel frustrated and apathetic.

I submit, therefore, that the Administration's resolve to restructure the Federal education role - long overdue - would be well served if it were coupled with greater emphasis on the objective of improving the quality of education in terms of moral and ethical values and character building that should be reflected in the actual everyday life of our young and growing generation.

Rabbi Zev Segal
Past president of the Rabbinical Council of America
From Kfar Chabad Magazine

I recall an incident when an El Al plane was hijacked to Algeria. General Ariel Sharon was scheduled to be on that plane, and he canceled his trip when told by the Rebbe not to travel. When I later met with the Rebbe, I told him of the rumors, curious to ascertain their validity. The Rebbe did not acknowledge that he kept Sharon from going. He said, "Sharon came to say good-bye to me before he went to Israel and I said to him, 'Don't go.'" And Sharon didn't go.

So I asked the next question: "If you knew that the plane would be hijacked, why only save Sharon when you could have saved everyone else?"

The Rebbe responded with incredulity, "Do you think that I saw a plane being hijacked? He came to say good-bye and all I did was say, 'don't go.' "

On one of my travels (to this day I don't know how the Rebbe discovered where I was going), I was called to 770 and the Rebbe asked me to do something in that particular country. I came back and gave the Rebbe a report that this was not an easy task for me. It was rather very difficult.

The Rebbe looked at me and said, "HaRav Segal, since when did you make a contract with the Alm-ghty for an easy life.?" This among many, many things has become a guide for my own life, especially during the past few years.

Mayor Joseph C. Casdin
Worcester, Mass.
From a letter dated l3th of Adar 1, 5721 (Feb. 23rd, 1961)

I welcome the privilege which was bestowed upon me through the symbolic presentation of the keys to the city of Worcester.

This ancient custom has its counterpart in Jewish law (as well as other codices) as the act of mesiras ha-maftaeich (Traditio Clavium), where it is applied not only in the domain of commerce, but also in the sphere of religious life.

Moreover, in Jewish life, the Jewish woman is entrusted with the keys to the general atmosphere of the home and the strengthening of the moral fiber of the entire family which is to be reflected in the daily conduct both within the home and outside. Your thoughtful gesture has thus highlighted this very basic concept of the Conference, and has made a tangible contribution to it as also, I may confidently say, to your worthy city at large.

Shoshana Cardin
Former Chairman United Israel Appeal, National Vice Chair United Jewish Appeal, Soviet Jewry Activist
From Conversations with the Rebbe, interviews by Chaim Dalfin

The Rebbe asked me a few things about what I was doing with Soviet Jewry and encouraged me; He said, "You have a great deal of work to do. You are doing a very good job and you must continue. We have to do everything we can, it is very important. Be strong and continue." Then we discussed a few other issues about Soviet Jewry, because that was the beginning of Soviet Jews being able to come to the United States (which they hadn't legitimately been able to do before), and going to Israel.

My second visit to the Rebbe was after the Crown Heights pogrom. I went together with Abe Foxman and Malcolm Hoenlin. I wanted to see the Rebbe and I wanted him to know that we have a relationship and we care. We may disagree on many things, but at the core, we are Jews, we are part of the Jewish people. He thanked me for coming and then he said something very interesting. "You thnk your work is done? You haven't finished. You have even more work ahead of you." This was after the peak of Soviet immigration. I asked what he meant and he said, "You will see, you will have greater challenges that will come up for you, so you must remain in the positions you're in, and keep working. Don't think that you can sit back and rest."

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
From a letter dated Adar 5719 [1959]

The thirst of the youth of our eternal people will certainly not be quenched by rationalizations and theories that are the product of contemporary mortals, which will share the fate of those ideologies which made their debut only yesterday and which are no more today.

I do not speak here of a theoretical religiosity, which serves only as a purely philosophical world outlook, or as the subject of lectures at weekends and holidays. I speak of a pervading and practical way of life, which includes the weekdays too, and all such matters which are usually termed "secular." Our faith is, after all, essentially one of practical deeds.

Now is the ideal opportunity to transform the whole canvas of life in the Land of Israel and direct it into the above-mentioned channels. This opportunity is knocking at your door; for you have been granted the ability and privilege to use it to the best advantage, a privilege and opportunity which are not given to every man and the likes of which have not presented themselves for many decades.

The Honorable Stuart E. Eizenstat
From a letter dated 13th of Shevat, 5740/ January 31, 1980

I sincerely appreciate your warm sentiments and good wishes, which I can best reciprocate by reiterating the dictum of our Sages, "He who blesses others is blessed by G-d Himself." Accordingly, may you and yours be blessed "out of His full, open, holy, and ample Hand," in a most generous measure, materially and spiritually.

Included in the above is also the blessing for Hatzlocho [success] in the high position which Divine Providence has bestowed on you to be closely associated with the President of the United States, with extraordinary opportunities of rendering public service on the highest level, for Jews and non-Jews, both in this country and in many parts of the world.

Faculty Members of Cornell
University and Ithaca College
From a letter dated Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5746 [1986]

I was particularly gratified to note how closely you have been involved with the Chabad activities in your community. Your profound concern for the future of Yiddishkeit among your students and in the community at large, gives me the confidence that you, on your part, will do your utmost to ensure the continuation of these activities and their steady expansion.

I trust you do not underestimate your personal influence that is inherent in your respective prominent positions in the community and especially among the academic youth. It is a prevalent experience, human nature being what it is, that students are "often" strongly influenced by the example of their professors' everyday life and conduct regardless of the academic field that brought them together.

Mr. David Tuvia Chase
From Kfar Chabad Magazine

Once when I was in a private audience very late at night, the Rebbe was very alert, but I was very exhausted. I apologized to the Rebbe for being tired. What the Rebbe told me reached deep into me, no matter how tired I was. "Let us use a motor as an example of human nature. If not used, it can rust and die, but while in use, it must not be overheated. So too, man must always try to work and keep busy, for without work comes laziness and break down. A person must recognize his capabilities, and use them to their fullest. But never ask of yourself more than you can. Just be yourself."

President George Bush
From a letter of the Rebbe dated 13th of Nissan, 5750 [1990]

Your kind tribute to the Lubavitch movement, which I am privileged to head, is a message of encouragement to me and to our members in the USA and abroad. Of course, a large measure of whatever has been achieved is due to the happy circumstances that when my predecessor, my father-in-law the Rebbe of saintly memory, transplanted the movement's headquarters on these blessed shores (in 1940), it found fertile soil and a conducive climate to thrive and grow consistently, from strength to strength.

Your personal and Presidential support to "Education Day, USA," reflects your awareness that education is the first and foremost vehicle of fostering the most basic and inexhaustible national resource. This, as mentioned earlier, is truly a source of encouragement to all who work for the betterment of life at home and for humankind at large.

Chaplain Aaron D. Michelson (MAJ), USA
From a letter dated 24 Adar, 5737 [1977]

What makes servicemen particularly receptive to the basic approach of Torah-true Judaism is, first of all, the very basic principle on which the military depends, namely obedience and discipline in the execution of an order by his commanding officer. Even though in civilian life a private may be superior to his c.o., the order must be executed promptly, whether or not the soldier understands its significance. This, of course, corresponds to the principle of na'aseh v'nishma, the condition on which Jews accepted the Torah and Mitzvos from the Supreme Commander, the Giver of the Torah and Mitzvos.

A further basic point in military life is the fact that a soldier cannot argue about his personal conduct and whether or not he obeys an order is his private affair, and he is prepared to suffer the consequences, etc. Whether he realizes it or not, his conduct may have implications for his entire unit and all the military.

Gabriel Erem
Publisher Lifestyles Magazine
From an encounter at "Sunday Dollars" as it appeared in Lifestyles

"If I may ask you a simple question Rebbe: On the occasion of your 90th birthday, what is your message to the world?"

The Rebbe answered: "The Hebrew letter that is numerically equivalent to 90 is tzadik, which literally translates as 'righteous.' The clear and obvious directive to every Jew is that each and every one of us is to aspire to become a 'true tzadik,' to become truly and wholly righteous. Moreover, that we do so for many years to come, 'until 120.'"

I then asked: "What is your message to the general world, not just the Jewish world, but he whole world?"

The Rebbe answered: "The message is essentially the same - that all mankind attain righteousness through observing the Seven Noachide Laws. These laws are incumbent upon all mankind, explains Maimonides, because G-d so commanded when He gave the Torah at Sinai. At that time the entire world became obligated to fulfill all seven of the Noachide laws, along with the commandment of tzedaka, charity.

"I trust this will suffice, for an entire book can be written upon this theme."

Rabbi Emanuel Jacobowitz, ztz'l
Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth
From a letter as it appeared in Encounters with the Rebbe by Peter kalms

I was taken to task for placing so much emphasis on the security of the Land of Israel, the argument being that what has protected the Jewish people during the long exile has been the study of Torah and the practice of mitzvot; hence Torah-observant Jews should not make the inviolability of the Land of Israel the overriding cause. I countered that they missed the point, for my position has nothing to do with the Land of Israel as such, but with the Pikuach Nefesh [mortal danger] of the Jews living there - which would apply in any part of the world.

It is said that my pronouncements are more political than Rabbinic. Inasmuch as the matter has to do with Pikuach Nefesh, it is surely the duty of every Jew, be he Rabbi or layman to do all permitted...

King Hassan II of Morocco
From a letter dated 21 Iyar, 5745 (12th of May, 1985)

I have the honor and pleasure of extending to your Majesty sincere greetings and prayerful wishes in connection with the 850th birthday of the illustrious Teach and Sage, famed Physician and Philosopher, universally known as Maimonides and-by the acronym of his Hebrew name, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon-Rambam Maimonides' birthday on the 14th of Nissan, ca. 4895 (1135), has been the occasion of world wide celebrations in all free countries, along with Jewish communities everywhere, including the historic Jewish community in your Majesty's blessed land. Your majesty and all Moroccans have cause for particular affinity with the historic commemoration, since it is in your land, and in the city of Fez, that Maimonides with his family found refuge from religious intolerance. In Fez Maimonides had the opportunity to advance his knowledge of medicine in cooperation with prominent Arab physicians, which stood him in good stead when he eventually settled afterwards in Cairo and was appointed personal physician to Sultan Saladin and the royal family. Under the patronage of the Sultan, Maimonides was able to continue writing his celebrated works in Arabic and in Hebrew that won him a prominent place among mankind's most illustrious sons of all times.

May I be permitted to conclude on the perception with which Maimonides opens and closes his opus magnum, Mishne Torah, to the effect that the knowledge of G-d is the basis of mankind's future; the ideal world in which there is no jealously nor animosity among individuals and nations, but only peace, justice and benevolence under One G-d.

The Young Leadership Cabinet of the U.J.A.,
From a trascript published by the Young Leadership Cabinet after their March 4, 1973 meeting with the Rebbe

There is a special goal which takes priority over all others and that is education. By educating people you are preparing the young leadership of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Education is not a question of making someone who is not so learned, more learned, someone who is not fluent, more fluent, someone who is not charitable to become charitable or more charitable. Education now is a question of saving a soul, saving a human being for the Jewish people. And saving him even for humanity.

Taking into account that a child is someone whose need for education must be met at the first opportunity possible-money can be borrowed now and paid tomorrow, or a year from tomorrow. Even if you have no money already in cash or in pledges it is the first priority and the first duty and the first obligation of every Jew who can do something in this realm to invest it in education.

I am not asking you for a check, what I am asking is that every one of you, before asking someone for a check tomorrow, to become more Jewish than today by adding at least one mitzva in your personal life, in your private life and in the life of your family. And, in addition, and I know this from my personal experience, I am now seventy years old and nevertheless I hope that tomorrow morning, I will be a better Jew than today. Performing a mitzva in your private life as a private person-has an immediate impact on your communal activities.

Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog
First Chief Rabbi of Israel
From a letter dated 4 Sivan, 5716 (1956)

In general, as regards all scientific deductions, the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty is well known, which propounds that all scientific "laws," regardless of the particular branch of scientific inquiry, are merely conjecture and assumptions about what is most likely to occur. That is, it is impossible for a person to know the future with absolute certainty; he can only guess. One of these assumptions is that the greater the number of phenomena, the greater the likelihood that at least some of them will fit the [preconceived] expectations known as "laws," in relative approximation to those which do not. But this in itself is only an expression of probability, rather than definite certainty. For example, it would not contradict scientific "law" if a stone were to be observed flying upward instead of falling downward. It would only be a contradiction of what is usually observed, not a scientific inference.

This applies to all "natural laws," without exception. How much more so does it apply to the laws of scientific inquiry, given that even among scientists there are many different approaches, some of which are completely contradictory to each other.

Hillel Directors
From a transcript of a "question and answer" session with the Rebbe on August 24, 1960

The primary axiom of Judaism is that a perfect being creates everything according to design-that nothing happens by accident. Consequently, no one gets more responsibility than he can handle. This clear knowledge can strengthen man because it is in his power to complete his tasks. For every problem there is a solution; thus there is no need for despair or frustration.

Based on this premise, that order is inherent in the universe, the question arises why should one feel this awe in facing his responsibilities? The anxiety enables him to use all his intellectual and emotional powers, to arouse the deepest emotion within him in order to come to the solution. Whereas, if one is detached from the problem he will be satisfied with any solution.

Chaplain Brig. Gen. Israel Drazin
Dept. of the [U.S.] Army
From a letter dated Erev Shabbos Kodesh Bereshit, 5747 [1986]

Many thanks for the good news, particularly about your talks and lectures on the Seven Noachide Commandments on a number of occasions, and that these were well received, even enthusiastically. I am certainly gratified that you intend to continue doing so.

There is, of course, no need to emphasize to you the importance of promoting these Seven Noachide Commandments among gentiles. In our day and age, it does not require much imagination to realize that, by way of example, had these Divine Commandments been observed and adhered to by all the "Children of Noah," namely the nations of the world, individually and collectively, there would not have been any possibility, in the natural order of things, for such a thing as a Holocaust..

The Skulener Rebbe ztz'l
Rabbi Eliezer Zushe Portugal
From a private audience on 20 Shevat, 5724 (1974) translated from Shemen Sasson Mei'Chaveirecha by Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Volpe

The Skulener Rebbe: There is so much suffering, individual as well as communal suffering, and then there is the situation in our holy land. We need salvation and consolation.

The Rebbe: The greatest suffering is the Shechina (Divine Presence) being in exile. It is close to 2,000 years now that the Shechina and the Jewish people have been in exile. Ad Mosai-how much longer?

The Skulener Rebbe: The Rebbe is the tzadik of the generation, and "what a tzadik decrees, G-d fulfills."

The Rebbe: What I think and do, G-d knows. Perhaps you will rule that Moshiach must come!

The Skulener Rebbe: Moshiach should come, and then there will be an end to all the suffering, individual as well as communal.

The Rebbe: The suffering must cease immediately, even if it was decreed that we must remain another moment in exile. You who merited to save so many Jewish children of those days, brands rescued from the fire, you have the power up above to bring Moshiach already.

The Skulener Rebbe: Who are we and what are we compared to the Rebbe?

The Rebbe: That is misplaced humility. Nevertheless, I will do what is dependent upon me and you will do what is dependent upon you.

  615: Metzora616: Passover  
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